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Nature

California

On my way down to California this weekend I sat next to a chatty guy on my right and a video-playing guy to my left, who, in response to my request to photograph out of the window if we saw fires, closed the shade so he would not have the reflection on his game screen.

The guy on my right turned out to be an interesting character. He was born on an island in Alaska, to a Finnish father and first nation mother, dropped out of high school and build an empire of crab fishing boats. Girls of his mother’s generation still were not allowed to go to school beyond 5th grade – all hands were needed to prepare food (salt fish, can it, etc.) and raise gardens, so they would not starve in the winters. I also learned that many of the Louisiana crab fishing boats went to Alaska when their grounds ran dry, with their crews now dying in deadly accidents because their boats only go 4 feet deep in the water, double that is needed to face Northern storms.

I asked about climate change – he has seen it for the last 8 years, started to get real loud in our conversation about how anyone could deny the facts – not listen to science, not look at the reality on the ground with the Alaskan environment and fishing being so visibly affected. I was thrilled to see a multimillionaire so riled. Funny how you take the slightest notion that there are still rational, decent people out there as encouragement.

Which brings me to the climate effects here. I am staying a bit South of L.A., and although I have not seen smoke or fire, the air reeks, and people are worried. I have written about the fire fighting situation before, but here is the newest bit – since they are running out of inmates to fight the fires, they are now shipping them in from Nevada!

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/12/how-much-longer-will-inmates-fight-californias-wildfires/547628/

Photographs are of the shorelines in La Jolla, where I was over the weekend, which will also change with rising oceans. But for now they are sanctuary for wildlife and eye candy for the photographer!

 

The River

I started this week of gratitude with photographs from Portland, and so I will end it. But this time the views are the object of my gratitude: the fact that I live in a city with a river. The Willamette draws me out even on days when I really just want to hide under the covers. I don’t know what it is about water, but for me it is restorative. Any explanatory attempts sounds so clicheed that I will spare you – but deep down to me they all sound right.

The images are from a morning walk last week, on these winter days when the sun rises late, but once up puts out a clear light. since the rainy nights wash away air pollution.

The city built a promenade around the river down town, you can cross on one of the many bridges to walk a loop that fits your stamina. The West side is bordering downtown, the East side loops under the highway and is noise, but affords great views of the city. And reflects the tinted light coming across the river from Big Pink, one of Portland’s landmark towers.

I walked South to North on the Westside that day, from the Hawthorne Bridge with the yacht harbor to the Steel Bridge with a view of the industrial harbor. The geese were out in full force, on the lawns which house music festivals and fairs in the summer. So were the homeless, who seek shelter under the many bridges that cross the water.

Many of the bridges either draw up or unfold to accommodate big ship traffic.

Maybe I should turn to airB&B for stints on the water…

Here is another river, captured in sound….

 

Thanksgiving

I can read this.

 

I can read this.

 

I can read this, sort of. (The yiddish poem by Meylekh Ravitsh is called Ein Lied und ein Name (a song and a name.)

 

So why can’t I read a cookbook? Always get something wrong if I try?

Today’s gratitude, then, is dedicated to my Beloved, who cooks the best Thanksgiving dinner ever, every year (shown is the year 2011); which is a feat, but nothing compared to what he does every day, every year, for all of us, his family, his students, his research colleagues, his publisher, and, importantly, those caught in the wheels of the justice system. Happy Thanksgiving!

Light

The third thing I am grateful for this week – and every week –  is light. It made the “gratitude list” for two specific reasons beyond the general one that it enables photography, among other things.

Sunlight is somewhat absent in Oregon – we have so many uniformly grey, dark days in the course of the year. When the light is unimpeded by clouds, or the cloud cover thin enough to let it through here or there, it is like a gift. Then again, the light provided by interesting cloud formations has its own beauty.

 

Secondly, the light here in the Pacific Northwest bears much similarity to the light of places in Europe that are close to my heart. The light at the coast is comparable to the light at the Baltic Sea, the light on Sauvie reminds me of Holland, and the light in PDX with the driven clouds or darkish skies are reminiscent of Hamburg, another harbor city located about an hour from the sea.

Norham Caste Sunrise – JMW Turner 1895

Milo at Manzanita Sunrise  2017

I always thought that Turner was magnificent when it came to painting light. In some or another review of a current exhibit  by Ellen Harvey that pays tribute to Turner I found this sentence: Harvey’s eponymous Nostalgia sets the stage for a show in which art serves as a problematic intermediary between past and present.  Given what I just wrote in the paragraph above, you will understand my claim that light serves as an unproblematic – and welcome – intermediary between my own past and present. 

Past, present. I wish a trip to England to see Harvey’s exhibit was in my immediate future, which it of course isn’t. The show looks fascinating, even if you are not familiar with Turner and her homage to him would have to stand on its own.

Here are the details.https://hyperallergic.com/411561/ellen-harvey-nostalgia-danese-corey-2017/

Instead, I will use whatever light there is, silver or golden or blue or crystalline, to continue documenting the natural beauty in our own vicinity; photographs today (other than the Turner from the web) were taken at the coast this spring, the Sandy River delta and near Camas, WA last week.

 

 

 

 

The Bigger Picture

I’ve concentrated on detail for most of the week, so today I thought we’d look at landscapes to get the bigger picture. The photographs were taken in the Gorge in 2016 before the fires of this year, in the coast range and recently on Sauvie Island, now familiar to my faithful readers!

I picked the poem The Silent Heavens by Victorian poet Richard Watson Dixon shortly after the news of yet another mass shooting, this time in Texas. It reflects a sense of loss, not just of youth, of faith, of lives, but of the ability to connect; to connect in order to find answers. In secular terms perhaps even answers that could be pragmatically turned into political action.

 

For a long and insightful analysis that places the poem and the poet in their historical context as well go here:

https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2017/sep/25/poem-of-the-week-the-silent-heavens-by-richard-watson-dixon

 

I explore nature to escape thinking, more often than not. The part of me that “sees” the world, in ever lasting gratitude for the beauty around us, is mostly able to shut out the part of me that “thinks” about the world. Until it isn’t.

 

Taking pictures along the Columbia river, for example, makes my heart beat faster, first in awe, and then in anger, because I remember this: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/national-politics/article181771226.html

It brings back the theme of the poem, translated into our modern, secular realm – the lack of humanity when we ignore the faces of the dispossessed.

 

Captured, of course, by Mahler im Lied der Erde, at his best: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PeghTtEcreM

 

 

Root Vegetables

We had yellow leaves, white pumpkins and red rose hips this week. Time to expand the palette. Root vegetables (and other fall crop) will lend their saturated colors, providing opportunity to go the farmer’s market to photograph and to share a poem that spoke to me for years.

If you ever need a thoughtful gift for a friend struck with serious illness I recommend Tisha Turk’s small volume of poetry Coming out Alive. Turk teaches at the University of Minnesota with a research focus on popular videography; a life threatening illness in 2003 produced her first volume of poems; they tell stories.

https://www.library.wisc.edu/parallelpress/pp-catalog/poetry-series/2003-2/getting-out-alive/

Some are directly related to issues of how to cope with illness, some are indirectly related to themes of how to survive any number of psychological or physical impairments. They are pragmatic, hopeful, sometimes wise.  (I realize that just like I prefer paintings that tell stories I also tend towards narrative poetry. I wonder what’s that all about.)

In any case, here’s to root vegetables. And toughness. And shared pain. To those who listen.

 

And here comes the fun part:

Go make that soup!!!

Autumn Rose Hips

Rose Hips also known as Apothecary Rose, Cynorhodon, Cynorhodons, Cynosbatos, Dog Rose, Dog Rose Hips, Églantier, Fruit de l’Églantier, Gulab, Heps, Hip, Hip Fruit, Hip Sweet, Hipberry, Hop Fruit, Persian Rose, Phool Gulab, Pink Rose, Poire d’oiseaux, Rosa alba, Rosa centifolia, Rosa damascena, Rosa de castillo, Rosa gallica, Rosa Mosqueta, Rosa provincialis, Rosa canina, Rosa lutetiana, Rosa pomifera, Rosa rugosa, Rosa villosa, Satapatri, Rosae pseudofructus cum semen, Rosehip, Rosehips, Rose des Apothicaires, Rose de Provins, Rose Rouge de Lancaster, Rosier de Provence, Satapatrika, Shatpari, Wild Boar Fruit are THE best thing to make jam with.

Or so I thought when arriving in a small bed&breakfast in some remote part of Southern Argentina, after months of being deprived of sugar, an essential, perhaps the essential staple of my diet…. I might have told the story before, but I could not stop eating that jam, generously supplied at the breakfast table, by the spoonful.  (These days I favor currant jam, not easily found here, and a special sour treat when done right.)

Rose Hips are visually enticing, providing such saturated color in fall, red to black splashes in the fading landscape. High in Vitamin C they are also recommended to be taken as a supplement (although as it turns out, when you process them and dry them yourself, almost all the Vitamin C disappears.)

Here is the deal, though: just because rose hip supplements are “natural” it does not mean they don’t have possible interactions with other medications or certain ailments. The assumption that things that are plant-based are safe is one of my pet peeves.

Just a few pointers, before you mega dose on natural Vitamin C in this cold season: Rose Hips increase how much estrogen your body absorbs; if at risk for cancer you don’t want to up the amount of estrogen floating around. Rose Hips interact with aluminum, (found in most antacids) increasing the amount the body stores. If you are on lithium, Rose Hips interfere with getting rid of the drug, leading to side effects. If you are on Coumadin, which is used to slow blood clotting, Rose Hips decrease the effectiveness of the drug. If you are diabetic they interfere with blood sugar regulation. And last but not least there are some data that point to the possibility of developing kidney stones if you eat large amounts of the Vitamin C in Rose Hips.

I guess it’s better to stick to the visual beauty and leave them as food for the birds…. and listen to folk songs about them https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETQTDMP17Ks

Or read poems about them that are deliciously subversive.

This young poet, by the way, is a force to be reckoned with. My kind of approach to nature…..

http://sorlil.wixsite.com/mmccready

 

And here is a vibrant red matching the vibrant wins of the Democrats in last night’s election – what  a ray of hope.

 

Pumpkins

I had not known that pumpkins come in colors other than orange. The white ones are particularly photogenic, not sure if they are equally suited for soup compared to the ones more familiar to me. I like pumpkin soup, and do not like pumpkin pie – riddle me that. Then again, pumpkin bread is a constant fall companion as my ever increasing hip volume can testify.

The poem I chose for today mentions pumpkin bread – as a kind, if futile, gesture towards someone struck by tragedy. I was caught by the poem as a “matter of fact, don’t really spell it out, let the insight hit a moment later” – piece of writing.

The music matches the mood.

 

Let me counterbalance the sadness with some of the most exuberant art currently on the scene:

https://www.dma.org/kusama

Yayoi Kusama is something else altogether, whether she applies her polka dots to pumpkins or anything else. The woman is creativity incarnate. I’m drooling over her energy…. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/03/arts/design/yayoi-kusama-david-zwirner-festival-of-life-review.html

 

 

Better get back drooling over the pumpkin bread….

 

Herbst

Some thoughts on autumn this week.

Yellow thoughts. 

Leaf thoughts. Soon to be falling, dropping, gliding, twirling, rustling and all around in motion – thoughts. Or hanging in suspension thoughts.

Here is Autumn, a Rilke poem in the original German, read by one of my favorites, Otto Sanders, speaking to the matter of falling leaves. (Rilke’s poem An Autumn Day is probably better known, but honestly borders on clichee for those of us who had to recite it during all of their childhood school years….)

I am attaching a couple of translations which go to show how hard it is to capture poetry in a different language. None of them comes close to the original which has a sense of futility and hope rolled all in one.

Photograph are from the last weeks in and around Portland.

Prelude to fall is behind us – we are in it; but here is a beautiful musical reminder of how it felt…..

Singing Sands

Sometimes I read something about people I have never heard of before and I spontaneously think: wouldn’t it be cool to meet that person? This was certainly true when I encountered the article below, describing Lotte Geeven, a Dutch artist who is passionate about making a concert out of samples of singing sand collected from around the world. The idea alone is ingenious – focussing an audience’s attention on sound that is natural by source (and rare) but now delivered in manufactured fashion – however she plans to do that.

The preparation for such an undertaking involves figuring out where these sands can be found, how people can be approached to send them, and of course how to re-create the sound once the sand is in your possession.

If you click on the short video embedded in the article you can see the process first hand – how she writes to strangers, how they respond, how so much depends on simple kindness and willingness to do the unusual for the sake of art.

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/artist-crowdsourcing-sand-around-world-recreate-sound-singing-deserts-180966966/

For the mechanically inclined, here are some sketches of her “instruments.”

 https://hyperallergic.com/394661/lotte-geeven-sand-machines/

Here is a sound sample from our own “backyard,” sand dunes in Death Valley who sing during the summer (at 118 degrees…)

Here they are in Liwa (UAE) close to Saudi Arabia

You can find them in China, Mongolia, Scotland (apparently…) and you can find stand-ins at the beach and the Portland Zoo.

The sands there don’t sing, but I needed photographs for this blog so the elephants’ play ground came in handy. When I went there last week to take these pictures I happened to be in time for the elephant training/feeding session. Thus you get a bonus picture of an elephant’s mouth in all its pink detail….

Maybe singing elephants are next.

She doesn’t think so….