Rivulets

 

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The beauty of the coastline of California is undeniable.  The  Pacific is magnetic, and I am drawn back to the West Coast when I am away for any length of time.  This outcropping, just off the coast of Carmel-by-the-Sea, fascinates me, and I spent quite a while trying to capture a photograph to do it justice.  I wanted to take one of the august waves crashing over the top, but ultimately I was struck by the hidden power of the little silent rivers that have carved away the stone over the millennia.  There is no great force to the rivulets; they work by sheer repetition and determination.  The streams of water cascade over the outcropping each time even a moderately sized wave crashes upon the rock, carrying a grain of sand or two, and slowly they peel away the layers of the hard stone – a testament to the often-hidden power of nature.

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York Minster

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I rarely take photographs with people in them, but the ones that I do turn out to be some of my favorites, as you can see in my “Solitary” gallery.  This photograph of York Minster Cathedral was taken in my most recent trip to England.  I had visited a Gothic cathedral years before in Palma, Mallorca (La Seu), but I was still taken aback by the august size of York Minster.   This was Kemper’s first taste of Gothic architecture, and though I know that the grandeur was lost on him a bit, at the very least he will have context now when he is introduced to arches, vaults, and flying buttresses later in his life.

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Wooded Ways

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I have a fascination with taking photographs of paths, which is evident by my whole gallery of them.  This photo of a rainforest path was taken on a hike in Glacier Bay National Park in southeast Alaska.

For me, paths evoke transience and the journey that we are all on.  In keeping with my spate of Latin-related posts, I was reminded of a quote by the Augustan-era poet Catullus, who understood this journey down the path of life well, and who often wrote about it in his Carmena.  In Carmen 46, Catullus bids farewell to his friends in Bithynia (a city in Asia Minor near Nicea) as he heads back home to Rome.  On leaving, he declares, “Farewell, sweet company of friends, who, having also wandered far from home, diverse paths carry back.”  (O dulces comitum valete coetus / longe quos simul a domo profectos / diversae varie viae reportant.)

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Chip off the Old Block

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This photograph was taken from the shore of the bay, in Bar Harbor, Maine.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, my father is from southeastern Maine, and the place has always held great memories for me.  The weathered geometry of the rocks on the beaches struck me more during this trip than as a kid, when I was wont to be found between and betwixt the ocean-side boulders with knees perpetually skinned by the barnacles.  Though not taken at Goose Rocks or Old Orchard Beach, where my dad would have been found in the summers, Maine is synonymous with him, and I am nothing, if not a chip off the old block.

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Herrick’s Bud

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It’s rare that I can combine both my Latin and English major in a photography post, so I apologize for the length up front.

This photograph was taken in my in-laws’ garden in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California.  The title refers to the first line of the 1648 poem by Robert Herrick’s, “To the Virgins, Make Much of Time,” which even non-English majors will remember from the scene in Dead Poet’s Society.  As Robin Williams’ character notes, the theme of the poem is carpe diem – seize the day.  Carpe diem is one of those phrases that has stood the test of time and meandered its way into the modern lexicon both in its original Latin and in its widely accepted translation.  Unlike phrases such as et cetera or even cave canem (a common phrase, even written on a floor mosaic in Pompeii), carpe diem has a wonderfully beautiful, poetic history.

The ephemerality of life has long been a preoccupation of poets, and it should, therefore, be no surprise that the greatest poets of the greatest ages wrote about the transient nature of beautiful things.  One of the earliest (extant) examples is Quintus Horatius FlaccusOde 1.11, which features the line from which the phrase originates: “Sapias, vina liques, et spatio brevi spem longam reseces.  Dum loquimur, fugerit invida aetas: carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero.”  Translated, this means “Be wise, strain your wines, and because time is brief, cut short your long-term hopes.  Even while we are speaking, jealous time will have fled: so, seize the day, trusting as little as possible in what comes next.”

Carpe” is an agrarian word, and though it can be (and usually is) translated as “seize,” it would have been understood by the readers of the Ode to mean “pluck” (like a grape from the vine).  It is this meaning that Herrick ascribes to when he says, “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may / old Time is still a-flying / and this same flower that smiles today / to-morrow will be dying.”  And it is this meaning I ascribed to the photograph, which I took after my son Kemper (who was four at the time) plucked this bud for his mother, who ultimately set it afloat in the birdbath outside our window.

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Aesacus

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This panorama was taken near Carmel Point, the southernmost point of the coastline in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California.  The title, Aesacus, alludes to the myth memorialized in Chapter 11 of Ovid’s Metamorphoses.  The youth Aesacus fell in love with Hesperia.  As he pursued her, she was bitten by a snake and died.  Aesacus gives a brief soliloquy lamenting her death, which he says was caused by him and the snake equally.  The sentence after his speech contains one of my favorite images in Augustan-era poetry: “Dixit et e scopulo, quem rauca subederat unda, se dedit in pontum.”  (“So he spoke, and from the cliff, which the rough waves had eaten away below, he gave himself to the sea.”)  As Aesacus fell, the ocean goddess Tethys took pity on him and changed him into a diving bird.  Watching the five diving birds in the photograph flying between rocks (eaten away by the sea) made me think at once of the Aesacus myth, which gave the scene such a mournful subtext.

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Down East

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This photograph of a squat lighthouse was taken in southeastern Maine, where my dad was born and raised.  Hundreds of these lighthouses dot the rocky coast, and each one of them is unique and picturesque in its own right.

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