Alfred Stieglitz and Mother Nature

Nashville winter trees_Resized_with nameThere is little doubt that 21st century technology has offered most of us advantages over those of the past. We are able to transport ourselves with little effort, feed ourselves with little strife, and communicate with the same degree of ease. Simple chores, such as laundering our clothes and cleaning our homes are no longer grueling; all easily accomplished using modern day conveniences.

However, hard as we try, when it comes to producing exquisite images… Mother Nature still out does even the most up to date cameras. And though we have come a long way from the first image makers, earth’s natural splendor from the beginning of time is still superlative. Her winter vistas produce the most daunting of black and whites while springtime, autumn, and summer test the boundaries of original colors beyond any means we can imagine.

Alas, with her infinite array of vistas and spectacles, we are only privy to her delights for a wink of time. Like a lovely dream we try to remember, so are her dawns, her sunsets, her sun showers so very elegant. All she asks of us is to indulge in these fleeting moments and then… sigh; for no modern trick nor gimmick can hope to offer such a grand performance as hers.

Alfred StieglitzToday’s blog returns the esteemed thinker: Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946 b. Hoboken, New Jersey.), the innovative photographer and art promoter who received his formal education in engineering in Germany. Upon his return to the New York City in 1890, he set his sights on establishing photography as a “legitimate” form of art. In his early career he began to promote photograph as ‘art’, comparing his use of the camera as a tool to an artist and his/her paintbrush. Stieglitz’s artistic and creative talents harnessed the use of natural elements, such a weather, to create effects he wished to achieve and the camera’s focusing abilities to soften the frames.

In 1905, he founded the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession at 291 Fifth Avenue in New York, with Edward Steichen, which later became known simply as ‘291’. Here he succeeded to elevate photography to the status of sculpture and painting.

In 1917, he met the much younger American painter Georgia O’Keeffe, who became his lover and finally his wife in 1924. Over a period of 20 years, he had taken over 300 individual pictures of her, demonstrating his unique and undeniable artistic ability to capture many facets of a single subject.

Let us know take time out from your hectic day to ruminate a most inventive work of art; a platinum print by the renown Alfred Stieglitz titled “Out of the Window” (1925). It is certainly one even Mother Nature would sit up and take notice of…after all…she did have much to do with its creation!Steiglitz_Out of the window

Tribute to summer

As the earth rotates and we near the Autumnal Equinox, I feel it is only fitting to give a tribute to summer for its sandy walks and the dipping of toes into water. I bid thanks to the season that shines.

And so, today’s blog brings you my piece, As the Shore Unfolds

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Richard Jefferies and six legged friends

picnic For those of us who are on the fringes of warm weather, we are now compelled to open the windows and usher in the new day with gentle breezes. And as we welcome the longer days of sunshine we also may find that the beauty of spring comes with a small price. For some, the mornings may welcome the chirping of birds or there are those who may turn over and wish them away for though the term, “getting up with the birds” may look good on paper, it is not always something we wish for ourselves.

The quiet of winter is replaced with a more noisy spring for along with the lovely carpet-like lawns comes the droning noise of the mowers. And from under the ground that was formerly dormant and hidden has awakened with the budding of flowers, leaving us once again sharing our homes and gardens with insects and other small critters. Try as we may to keep them at bay, the little devils are with us again, bringing havoc to the most civilized of picnics.

So, open your hearts and oil your bicycle chains, warm weather is here with all its glory and all its pesky six legged friends. And just think… summer sunburns are just around the corner!

Richard Jefferies 2 Today’s post brings back English writer, Richard Jefferies, (1848-1887). An author who was noted as being a compassionate man that found and wrote about the esthetics of nature. His popularity as an author has gone in and out of vogue; however those who are drawn to the writings of rural life will surely find his work appealing.

I now bid you to take a bit of time out from your hectic day to walk among the flowers with Mr. Jefferies. From his essay, “Some April Insects” we are invited to share with him his observations about “the bee”.

“…Any one delicate would do well to have a few such flowers in spring under observation, and to go out of doors or stop in according to their indications. I think there were four species of wild bee at these early flowers, including the great bombus and the small prosopis with orange-yellow head. It is difficult to scientifically identify small insects hastily flitting without capturing them, which I object to doing, for I dislike to interfere with their harmless liberty. They have all been named and classified, and I consider it a great cruelty to destroy them again without special purpose. The pleasure is to see them alive and busy with their works, and not to keep them in a cabinet. These wild bees, particularly the smaller ones, greatly resented my watching them, just the same as birds do. If I walked by they took no heed; if I stopped or stooped to get a better view they were off instantly. Without doubt they see you, and have some idea of the meaning of your various motions. The wild bees are a constant source of interest, much more so than the hive bee, which is so extremely regular in its ways. With an explosion almost like a little bomb shot out of a flower; with an immense hum, almost startling, boom! the great bombus hurls himself up in the air from under foot; well named—boom—bombus…”

First image: F. Graetz, 1884. India ink over pencil on bristol board

Esteemed thinker: Christopher D. Morley

cherry flowers changing The earth is most ingenious; for her ability to transform herself is akin to our flipping over the days on the calendar. For example, it was only a week or so ago that she celebrated the spring equinox (although somewhat arbitrary depending upon which side of the hemisphere you live) This is an occasion, when put into scientific terms, marks that special moment when the sun crosses the celestial equator going from south to north. At the equinox, Earth’s two hemispheres are receiving the sun’s rays equally…day and nights are approximately equal in length. Hence we get the word equinox from the Latin aequus (equal) and nox (night).

But for earth… this is really just a wardrobe crisis; much like hanging up one’s suit of clothes and exchanging it for another. Here the winter apparel has been put into storage and out comes the spring attire, which to our delight is much more colorful and often rather bold. For like those designers that dictate to us what colors are now “in”, so does Mother Nature play couturier with the seasons, choosing which blooms will festoon the trees and shrubs.

So, now the sun rises earlier, the flowers are sprouting, and the days are getting longer. So it seems that we have more time, an illusion created to fool us into believing that the 24 hours allocated are now more!

Christopher Darlington Morley_ Today’s blog introduces the esteemed thinker: Christopher D. Morley (1890-1957), a clever and prolific American journalist, novelist, playwright, and poet. Born in Haverford, PA, he was a Harvard Graduate. Morley wrote for the New York Evening Post (1920-1923) and the Saturday Review of Literature (1924-1941), which he helped found. Out of his keenness for the Sherlock Holmes stories, Morley helped found a group of Holmes enthusiasts, the Baker Street Irregulars. His 1939 novel Kitty Foyle, was made into an Academy Award-winning movie.

Here to brighten your day with a bit of wit and reminder of the vernal equinox and spring; from his book Mince Pie, I bring you the words of Christopher Morley.

“ Once a year, about the approach of the vernal equinox or the seedsman’s catalogue, we wake up at 6 o’clock in the morning. This is an immediate warning and apprisement that something is adrift. Three hundred and sixty-four days in the year we wake, placidly enough, at seven-ten, ten minutes after the alarm clock has jangled. But on this particular day, whether it be the end of February or the middle of March, we wake with the old recognizable nostalgia. It is the last polyp or vestige of our anthropomorphic and primal self, trailing its pathetic little wisp of glory for the one day of the whole calendar. All the rest of the year we are the plodding percheron of commerce, patiently tugging our wain; but on that morning there wambles back, for the nonce, the pang of Eden. We wake at 6 o’clock; it is a blue and golden morning and we feel it imperative to get outdoors as quickly as possible. Not for an instant do we feel the customary respectable and sanctioned desire to kiss the sheets yet an hour or so. The traipsing, trolloping humor of spring is in our veins; we feel that we must be about felling an aurochs or a narwhal for breakfast. We leap into our clothes and hurry downstairs and out of the front door and skirmish round the house to see and smell and feel.

It is spring. It is unmistakably spring, because the pewit bushes are budding and on yonder aspen we can hear a forsythia bursting into song. It is spring, when the feet of the floorwalker pain him and smoking-car windows have to be pried open with chisels. We skip lightheartedly round the house to see if those bobolink bulbs we planted are showing any signs yet, and discover the whisk brush that fell out of the window last November. And then the newsboy comes along the street and sees us prancing about and we feel sheepish and ashamed and hurry indoors again…”

Esteemed thinker: John Burroughs

robin close up For those who live in a hemisphere that awards the four seasons, it is winter that challenges us to be creative in ways that the other seasons do not. And though we often find ourselves cursing the cold temperatures, there are some who are most fortunate enough to be able to turn discomfort into pleasure… There are some lucky folks that can defrost frosty sentiments by a warm fireplace. In these homes cold hands are reminders to make a mug of hot chocolate, while icy feet walk themselves into a pair of woolly slippers.

And though many would prefer to remain indoors so as not to be bitten by its harsh winds; if you take a look from your window, winter has invited into its world some very enchanting visitors, birds. Look closely among the leafless branches, under the holly bushes, or flitting to and fro, and you may find quite a variety of winged guests, which makes you wonder how it is that they are not cold.

Against the whiteness of snow one notices the scarlet head crest of the cardinal, the black caps and bibs of the chickadees, the iridescent green and purple flossed head of the starlings, and hidden in the house eves are the rust colored sparrows. The birds of winter are like pieces of a rainbow that have broken off and flutter from snow crest to crest; they delight our world from our safe warm place in the winter.

John BurroughsToday’s post introduces the literary naturalist of the ninetieth century,
the esteemed thinker: John Burroughs (1837-1921). Born in Roxbury, N.Y., he is credited as an essayist, environmentalist, and the man who revolutionized the “conservation movement” in the United States. Burroughs quest to become a writer turned favorable when he befriended the poet Walt Whitman, who encouraged him to continue the path he loved. His writings and studies regarding nature later granted him the title of, “The Grand Old Man of Nature.” Best known for his observations of birds, flowers, and rural America, it is his quote that exemplifies his true feelings; “I seldom go into a natural history museum without feeling as if I were attending a funeral.”

From his book titled, Birds, and Bees Sharp Eyes and Other Papers, I have prepared a brief reading. Find a quiet moment to take in the sights revealed by our essayist and champion of nature, Mr. Burroughs….

“…These sparrows are becoming about the most noticeable of my winter neighbors, and a troop of them every morning watch me put out the hens’ feed, and soon claim their share. I rather encouraged them in their neighborliness, till one day I discovered the snow under a favorite plum-tree where they most frequently perched covered with the scales of the fruit-buds. On investigating I found that the tree had been nearly stripped of its buds—a very unneighborly act on the part of the sparrows, considering, too, all the cracked corn I had scattered for them …

… The bird that seems to consider he has the best right to the bone both upon the tree and upon the sill is the downy woodpecker, my favorite neighbor among the winter birds His retreat is but a few paces from my own, in the decayed limb of an apple-tree which he excavated several autumns ago. I say “he” because the red plume on the top of his head proclaims the sex. It seems not to be generally known to our writers upon ornithology that certain of our woodpeckers—probably all the winter residents—each fall excavate a limb or the trunk of a tree in which to pass the winter, and that the cavity is abandoned in the spring, probably for a new one in which nidification takes place. So far as I have observed, these cavities are drilled out only by the males. Where the females take up their quarters I am not so well informed, though I suspect that they use the abandoned holes of the males of the previous year…”

A snapshot of autumn

As we draw closer to the final days of autumn, I offer a moment to glance back upon the earlier days of fall….and so, here is my poem to sweeten your memory of the months that enriched us with their vibrant colors and crisp cool weather! Enjoy….

fall leaf poem_compressed

Robert Louis Stevenson and autumn

??????????????????????????????? There is something quite enchanting about seasons; for the changes endowed upon much of the earth are as if nature was staging a new theater production. And if you are not careful, if you are quite busy going about your business, as most industrious people do, we are apt to find ourselves missing the show. Because the world is a sphere, those of us who are presently ensconced in autumn live in the hemisphere which is now trounced by falling leaves.

Here the world is noiselessly changing; for those who walk and kick up leaves, and those who admire the landscapes, in our little part of the universe, (and I say little for we take up just a tiny bit of room) the leaves must have drunk up all the yellow, and orange, and brown … for being quite greedy, it stands to reason that surely they have grown too lazy and hang slothfully upon the trees rusting, and then with very little effort, with the slightest push from a breeze, drop off and flutter idly to the ground.

In autumn there is a thinning, the days have shortened and perhaps because the temperatures have fallen, evening comes upon us earlier with its blanket of darkness and covers the day like a warm friend…

No wonder we refer to autumn as fall, the time when the earth seems to be slowly curling, drying, chilling, it is falling into a state of sleep. And right before our eyes it is vanishing into thin air…

Robert-louis-stevenson Today I bring back to you the ever popular esteemed thinker: Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) Our Scottish author has entertained readers of all ages with his classic novels; Kidnapped, Treasure Island, and even Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Although Stevenson was ill much of his life, he was a prolific writer of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. His beautifully crafted essays expose his keen understanding of human nature.

I invite you to steal a moment away from your day with a portion trimmed from his 1875 essay titled An Autumn Effect. Join Mr. Stevenson on an autumn walk as he shares with us his thoughts. And if you live in the hemisphere where we are now engaged in this season called fall, perhaps you too will reminisce with the same observations, only with an eye that is more than a century of years later.

“… It was well, perhaps, that I had this first enthusiasm to encourage me up the long hill above High Wycombe; for the day was a bad day for walking at best, and now began to draw towards afternoon, dull, heavy, and lifeless. A pall of grey cloud covered the sky, and its colour reacted on the colour of the landscape. Near at hand, indeed, the hedgerow trees were still fairly green, shot through with bright autumnal yellows, bright as sunshine. But a little way off, the solid bricks of woodland that lay squarely on slope and hill-top were not green, but russet and grey, and ever less russet and more grey as they drew off into the distance. As they drew off into the distance, also, the woods seemed to mass themselves together, and lie thin and straight, like clouds, upon the limit of one’s view. Not that this massing was complete, or gave the idea of any extent of forest, for every here and there the trees would break up and go down into a valley in open order, or stand in long Indian file along the horizon, tree after tree relieved, foolishly enough, against the sky. I say foolishly enough, although I have seen the effect employed cleverly in art, and such long line of single trees thrown out against the customary sunset of a Japanese picture with a certain fantastic effect that was not to be despised; but this was over water and level land, where it did not jar, as here, with the soft contour of hills and valleys. The whole scene had an indefinable look of being painted, the colour was so abstract and correct, and there was something so sketchy and merely impressional about these distant single trees on the horizon that one was forced to think of it all as of a clever French landscape. For it is rather in nature that we see resemblance to art, than in art to nature; and we say a hundred times, ‘How like a picture!’ for once that we say, ‘How like the truth!’ The forms in which we learn to think of landscape are forms that we have got from painted canvas. Any man can see and understand a picture; it is reserved for the few to separate anything out of the confusion of nature, and see that distinctly and with intelligence…”

Henry David Thoreau and gifts from Mother Nature

fruit hanns skolle 1928 The earth, the sun, the rain, and man; put them together and often we cultivate a most harmonious synergy…the production of fruit. Without having to be reminded…for the agricultural industry and advertisements like to do this on a daily basis…most of us enjoy the byproducts of our very industrious workers…the farmer and his team of pickers… and we readily buy and eat without having to be coerced.

Let us consider the blueberry….for when it is in season, I make plenty of room in the refrigerator for its arrival, letting the lettuce and other more mundane items know that a special guest is to arrive. I use the term guest for like a relative that can only visit on certain holidays, its stint will sadly only be here a short time. Yet, I suppose we humans are fickle for as soon as blueberry ‘season’ dwindles down to those less than desirable plastic containers left over in the produce department; our salivary glands are once again acting like Pavlov’s dog.

Ahhhh, the cherry…now that is a most delectable fruit…but alas, her stay is much like the first flowers in spring…they appear for a short time to be enjoyed but for only that momentary occasion nature has allocated and then too…it retreats back while we temporarily mourn for its seasonal delight of return.

However, for all fruit lovers there seems to one type in particular that is always in abundance; the steadfast apple, a fine tasting fruit that magically avails itself during all seasons of the year. Much like a dog, it is dependable, forever wanting to please, and comes in many varieties and even colors…red, yellow, green, golden, sweet, tart, big, small, … they (who ever they are) were so sure of its taste that they even named one variety “Delicious” as well as touting its medicinal prowess…well… we all know the adage: “An apple a day, keeps the doctor away.” Oh, if that were only true! Even the trees that bare such a joyful fruit are first adorned with a multitude of heavenly flowers that perfume the air; tantalizing us with the thought of “what is to be”!

Thoreau_ Lake Waldon Thoreaus’s Cove at Waldon Pond

And so, today’s blog liberates once again the ever esteemed thinker: Henry David Thoreau: author, naturalist, and dear friend to Mother Nature; the man who helps us ‘see’ beyond the obvious through his writings and personal observations of the world around us. From his lyrical prose, Wild Apples, l have pruned a bit of his essay in order to take us on short walk through his thoughts.

“…Almost all wild apples are handsome. They cannot be too gnarly and crabbed and rusty to look at. The gnarliest will have some redeeming traits even to the eye. You will discover some evening redness dashed or sprinkled on some protuberance or in some cavity. It is rare that the summer lets an apple go without streaking or spotting it on some part of its sphere. It will have some red stains, commemorating the mornings and evenings it has witnessed; some dark and rusty blotches, in memory of the clouds and foggy, mildewy days that have passed over it; and a spacious field of green reflecting the general face of Nature,—green even as the fields; or a yellow ground, which implies a milder flavor,—yellow as the harvest, or russet as the hills.

Apples, these I mean, unspeakably fair,—apples not of Discord, but Concord! Yet not so rare but that the homeliest may have a share. Painted by the frosts, some a uniform clear bright yellow, or red, or crimson, as if their spheres had regularly revolved, and enjoyed the influence of the sun on all sides alike,—some with the faintest pink blush imaginable,—some brindled with deep red streaks like a cow, or with hundreds of fine blood-red rays running regularly from the stem-dimple to the blossom-end, like meridional lines, on a straw-colored ground,—some touched with a greenish rust, like a fine lichen, here and there, with crimson blotches or eyes more or less confluent and fiery when wet,—and others gnarly, and freckled or peppered all over on the stem side with fine crimson spots on a white ground, as if accidentally sprinkled from the brush of Him who paints the autumn leaves. Others, again, are sometimes red inside, perfused with a beautiful blush, fairy food, too beautiful to eat,—apple of the Hesperides, apple of the evening sky! But like shells and pebbles on the sea-shore, they must be seen as they sparkle amid the withering leaves in some dell in the woods, in the autumnal air, or as they lie in the wet grass, and not when they have wilted and faded in the house…”

(First photo taken in 1928 by Hanns Skoll)