As They Saw It

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I have published many posts taken at Point Lobos, but none yet of the point itself.  Point Lobos is located a few miles south down the coast from Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, and it is one of our favorite destinations when we visit Carmel.  When I took this picture, I wanted to capture the ruggedness of the point as well as the grove of Monterey Cypresses, which as I mentioned in a previous post, is one of two groves left in the world where the cypresses grow naturally.  When I went to “develop” or post-process the photograph, and I decided to go monochromatic, I was struck by the similarities to postcards I had seen in town from the 1930s and 1940s.  The coastline remained the same, albeit a bit more worn by the waves.  They cypresses were just as withered and topped by the constant winds.  The great Californian poet Robinson Jeffers wrote extensively about the coastline in his verses, and as I gazed at the photograph, I thought to myself, this is as he would have seen it – hence the genesis of the title of the post.

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Bee and Balm

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This photograph is a companion to Anna’s Hummingbird, which I posted on Wednesday.  This photograph shows a bee and its balm, specifically a Halictus Poeyi (sweat “furrow” bee) about to collect pollen from a Monarda Clinopodia (white “bergamot” bee balm).  The sweat bee and bee balm are native to North Carolina, where this photograph was taken.  I was busy taking macro photographs of the native flowers in the beautiful gardens of a family friend, and I hardly noticed this little bee hovering near the dew-kissed bee balm.  I was looking at my camera screen to see whether I had captured a focused shot of the flower when he drew closer, and I was able to catch him mid-flight.  I would have loved to increase the shutter speed to catch his wings, as I did with Anna’s Hummingbird, but the lighting under the the dense rhododendrons was not conducive to such a shot.

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Wabi-Sabi

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“Nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.”

This quote sums up the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, which has no direct translation in English. “Wabi” is said to be defined as “rustic simplicity” or “understated elegance.” “Sabi” is translated to “taking pleasure in the imperfect.”  This photograph of an abandoned toy truck captures the principle beautifully.  The imperfection of the truck (and even the photograph thereof) is evident.  Although the truck lost its wheels long before I took this photograph, its purpose has not yet been fulfilled – not completely.  It is now immortalized in this photograph, which has subsequently become the subject of this post.  Nothing is finished, really.  This post will be replaced tomorrow by a less melancholy subject, and slowly it will fade from memory.  Nothing lasts.  The Romantic poets were students of the ephemeral, finding beauty in the brief life of all things.  Even the Augustan poet Horace, famous for his introduction of the phrase “carpe diem,” was fascinated with fleeting time.  There is a beauty to this photograph, though; however, I could not put my finger on it before I connected it with wabi-sabi.  Now it has become clear why its perfectly imperfect composition and subject evoked such strong feelings of melancholy on the one hand, and pleasant nostalgia on the other.  The Japanese phrase captures in two words, what it has taken me a lifetime to understand.

Nothing lasts.  Nothing is finished.  Nothing is perfect.

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Anna’s Hummingbird

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This photograph of a female Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte Anna) feeding on alium flowers was taken in my in-laws’ garden in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California.  She visited the flowers nearly every day we were there, but she always visited alone.  Her mate would have had beautiful pink plumage around his neck.  I have always been fascinated by the drab colors of female birds (such as cardinals and tanagers) in contrast to the fantastically colored feathers of the males.  My grandfather was an avid bird-watcher, and he was the first to teach me to distinguish between the sexes of birds.   My mom carried on his love for watching and identifying birds, which she passed on to me.  I have already begun teaching Kemper the species of birds that live in our yard.  He was especially fond of the “tipmouse” that took up residence in our garage over the summer.

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Perspective

Perspective

This photograph was taken in Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska.  Of all the waterfalls we saw, this was perhaps the most impressive.  Without the two people standing at its base, this would have been a great picture – a study in contrasts; but the two individuals lend such perspective to the grand scale of the waterfall that I could not, in good conscience, leave them out.  Perspective is a term that covers all manner of sins, from the linear perspective of Da Vinci, to the perspective one gains from a tragedy, to even the perspective that you grasp from the sheer insignificance of two humans set against the backdrop of indefatigable nature.

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Cypress Bluff

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This photograph of a solitary Monterey Cypress (Hesperocyparis Macrocarpa) was taken at Point Lobos in Carmel, California. The species is native to the central coast of California, but now is confined to two small relict populations – Cypress Point in Pebble Beach and Point Lobos.  The most famous of the trees is the Lone Cypress, which is found along Seventeen Mile Drive in Pebble Beach.  Though the trees can grow to over forty feet, they are generally stunted by the strong winds that blow from the Pacific, which gives them their iconic flat-topped appearance.  Although it has long been held that some of the cypresses are two millennia old, this is a romantic conception of seaside literature, and the oldest of the cypresses are likely closer to 300 years old than 2,000.  Although only two native groves remain, the trees have been widely planted outside its native range, particularly along the coasts of California and Oregon.  Indeed, some intrepid seeds have even made it to Great Britain (including the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands), France, Ireland, Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Sicily.

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Etched

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“Etch” comes to us from the German ätzen meaning “to eat” via the Dutch etsen.  Etching is the traditional process of using an acid to cut into the unprotected parts of a surface to create an intaglio (incised) design on the surface.  The word has been borrowed for human application, with it meaning something that is affixed permanently in one’s memory.  This photograph has elements of both meanings.  The breaks in the heather and scrub are beautiful, lasting reminders of what has come before.  The paths on the moors have been etched by the footfalls of generations of Yorkshiremen and, indeed, even us outsiders.  Likewise, the scenes captured along such paths, as if created by old masters, have been indelibly etched into my mind.

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