Fleabane

I looked for a perfect one. With equally-spaced petals. Without blemish or unpleasant asymmetry. The sun warmed the back of my neck as I walked along the path in search of what I would not find. How foolish. Nature isn’t like that. It is subject to vagaries and limits at all scales. So too are our lives, complex, messy, and perhaps not quite as we’d like. But therein, as with this Fleabane flower, we find interest and beauty.

A tale of two words

Richness and diversity are very different things. Richness describes the number of species in a community while diversity is a function of both the number of species and the evenness with which they occur (roughly equivalent to population size). For example, if two meadows are known to contain 10 species of wildflower, they will have the same richness. If, however, one meadow includes a single individual of 9 of species and 91 individuals of the tenth species, it will have a lower diversity than the other, if that second place should have 10 individuals belonging to each of 10 species. So, it’s one thing to say that a meadow is rich, and quite another to describe it as diverse. Which is better? Perhaps it would be instructive to remember that it may not be a good idea to put all of your eggs into one basket. Having said that, communities and ecosystems aren’t able to put anything anywhere but those which have, for reason of history or circumstance, developed greater diversity may be less prone to the potentially negative impacts of disturbance and will be more stable. I tell you this by way of arguing that ecosystems are in delicate balance and we should tread lightly. The Jainist religion teaches that the way to save one’s soul is to protect every other soul. Its most central teaching is that of Ahimsa. Literally translated, it means to be without harm, to be harmless, not only to oneself and others, but to all forms of life. The toad is considered an indicator species. Amphibians live in both aquatic and terrestrial environments. They breathe with gills, when in the water, and use lungs when they are on land. Many species may augment oxygen supply by taking up that gas through the skin. Some terrestrial forms lack lungs altogether and are entirely dependent upon skin respiration. Because their delicate skin is especially subject to the injurious effects of radiation, disease, and toxins, amphibians may be the proverbial Canary in the Coal Mine, the first to show the effects of environmental degradation.

Layers

The tallest trees comprise the canopy and smaller ones and saplings occupy the sub canopy. Shrubs form the understory, followed by an herbaceous layer, and mosses and ferns are found on the forest floor. We planned to rendezvous in an hour. As I made my way back I was delighted to see that the sun had cast a reversal of the usual order.

No-so-strange attraction

We visited the island two years ago and I posted a few images from there, including one of a colorful tidepool. We returned last summer and, without thinking about the previous image, I captured the one below. If you examine the pair, you will see that they record the very same spot.

The palette of livings things that inhabit the New England rocky intertidal includes mostly blue and green. Color, in more tropical climes, tends toward red and orange. This difference has everything to do with light attenuation at different latitudes and the scene below might be mistaken for tropical, if not for the depth of the water. Regardless of color, each ecosystem is a thing of beauty to be admired, and protected.

Bloody Brook

I have had my eye on this bit of falling water through three cycles of seasons and never stopped to take a closer look, until now. It is just off the road and I pass by when I am on my way somewhere. Isn’t it unfortunate that having to be somewhere has been the reason for not allowing myself the pleasure of enjoying this beautiful spot?

Perspective

My surroundings reminded me of an animated film in which a group of magical people battled to save their rain forest home from logging. Fern Gully is just one of several such films which promulgate messages of global ecology and sustainability. I suppose, half a century earlier, Bambi may have been the first.

We had been to this place before and I should have brought my waders. My shoes and socks were wet, so I crossed the brook and walked to a place where the stream bed was wide. As I turned to meet her, I was struck by the beauty of the riparian plane. The sun was high and had begun its descent into afternoon. Light illuminated the ferns as if something burned within each one. I photographed a number of plants in the usual way, which I did not like. How else could I capture the graceful symmetry of my subject? I wondered something similar as I worked to photograph the Showy Lady’s Slipper; the solution there was to record the flamboyance from behind. In this instance, getting above my subject seemed the thing to do.

Fern, form and function

Why stem and rachis, root and rhizome, and leaves and pinnae, I cannot say. No matter nomenclature, I appreciate the rachis for its lazy arch, the graceful elegance of pinnae, and the feel of stored potential expressed in the crozier. This plant will release spores that will germinate and give rise to one that looks quite different. When mature, the gametophyte will release egg and sperm which fuse to then develop into the familiar frond once again. To what end? I cannot say.

Sylvan engineering

This place is an impoundment of a tributary stream of Charles Brown Brook. It was engineered using simple principles, felled trees and mud. It has been argued that a beaver dam is as much an expression of the beaver genome as its tail. I agree; for, how could it be otherwise?

Erethizon

Although we’ve been here, at our new place, for more than two years, we’re still getting to know the neighbors.

Larus

Although not a subject that I particularly favor, once in a while a bird will strike a pose that I cannot ignore. We encountered this one on Star Island, one of the Isles of Shoals.  The call of the Herring Gull has been described as harsh but, if I close my eyes, I hear instead a beautiful, and evocative refrain.

Crab claw and bladder wrack

Here is another still life from the marine intertidal. With regard to subject and composition, and without formal training, I have always relied on my own aesthetic sense; I like what I like, I hope others do as well.

Rockweed and feather

Searching for a particular image can sometimes feel like looking for a vintage baseball card or rare coin. I had been looking for this one for quite some time and finally found it on Appledore Island last weekend.

Upon a Star

A dear friend wrote …  although we can’t eliminate stress, we can change the way in which we react to it. Doing something for yourself may seem indulgent, even selfish, but not doing is akin to making the choice to let stress run your life. You need to recommit to a hobby, anything that lets you unwind. If photography feels self-indulgent, do it in spite of the feeling and view it as a way of taking care of yourself.

So be it.

This is a special Star indeed. We visited, to breath the air and to be reminded. We walked granitic pavements, worn smooth by the elements and fractured by the same. Peering into pools, colorful, and alive; the surrounding cacophony of bird calls, wind, and ocean song reminded us that we were at sea. Distant enough to feel removed. We were restored.

Industry standard

Oaks have done well. Squirrels have been busy.

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Ephemera

Though the cross-quarter has passed, temperatures have been moderate. They do dip into the twenties at night however and frost forms when there is sufficient moisture in the air. No match for solar radiation, solid water gives way. Droplets form. These disappear as the air warms and humidity drops. Water is never far away though and returns, in solid form, come morning.

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Schoolhouse

We stopped by the schoolhouse to attend to its mammoth, and beautifully fabricated, wood burner.

We could see our breath. We had dressed in layers and so lingered. The air warmed, slowly.

Upwelling currents made dust swirl and eddy. Particles turned somersaults to meander through shafts of illuminated volume.

To pass the time I studied, of all things, the floor. Four small holes, darkly stained and paired, showed where a desk had been moored. Eight more close by, and arranged in a circle, told of the placement of its partner. Twenty-four sets, revealed by tiny spaces.

Odors lingered in tucked away corners. Some synesthetic response tricked me into thinking I could hear young voices.

I am reminded of the importance of the past and of stewardship of its relics.

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Woodland cottage

We walked passed a tired playhouse. It stood in shadow and the original image lacked depth, tone mapping helped. The result appears painterly and perhaps, to your taste, overdone. I like to think the storybook feel is fitting.

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Portrait of the season

Birch in shadow.

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What cork cambium and solar flares have in common

Dicotyledonous plants growth up (via primary growth) and out (via secondary growth). Increases in circumference cause splitting of the bark which stimulates the cork cambium to fill the gaps. I wonder what the surface of a birch would look like if you could film it in time-lapse. I imagine that the surface might appear to mix and churn and roil up. It would look similar to the apparent mixing and churning which takes place on the surface of the sun as the star’s rotation causes lines of magnetism to merge, creating explosions which surge from the surface. While solar flares dance for minutes or hours, the dynamics of the surface of a birch occur over a time horizon 100s, 1000s, or even 10,000 times longer.

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Portrait ..

.. of Wild Raspberry.

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Inside and out

I enjoy capturing images of abandoned structures. I enjoy capturing images of them in ways which juxtapose their interiors and exteriors. My inclination is to process these using selective desaturation as a way of enhancing the contrast between these two spaces. Maybe this helps to emphasize the difference between that which we cannot know, the history of the structure, and the realities of the current moment. Click any image in the gallery to see each in a carousel.

A matter of degree

23.5°

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View to the east

Route 88, eastbound, near Worcester.

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Portrait ..

.. of Autumn.

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On swimming and a fear of heights

She begins her swim by walking straight into the water. She moves with determination and does not hesitate. Her walk ends when she is afloat. Her skin senses the dramatic differential in temperature. Her practice reduces peripheral blood flow quickly. Her skin cools, and the unpleasant sensation attenuates as the differential is reduced. She is comfortable within a short time.

I begin my swim by walking into the water to my ankles. I pause to get used to the unpleasant sensation of cold. I proceed to my knees and pause. The water stings as I walk to my waist. I stand high on my toes and retreat when waves splash onto my chest. Cycles of advance and retreat continue as I inch toward her. The cold bites with each step. Rather than allowing time for equilibration, my habit postpones it. The seemingly unending advance continues until I am standing with water just-below-the-chin. It is excruciating. By the time I begin my swim, hers is complete.

She argues that her habit makes more sense. Surely she is correct.

Neither of us managed more than two flights the first time so we made our way there again. The skies were clear and river mists remained. Up we climbed, hands to the rails. We stepped directly, and with determination. We did not hesitate. Within a few minutes we were there. We are glad to have conquered that which kept us from enjoying the view.
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