Passerine

SSA Photography (281 of 400)

Lugete, o Veneres Cupidinesque,
et quantum est hominum venustiorum:
passer mortuus est meae puellae-
passer, deliciae meae puellae,
quem plus illa oculis suis amabat.”

Mourn, O Venuses and Cupids,
and whatever there is of pleasing me:
the sparrow of my girl is dead –
the sparrow, the delight of my girl,
whom she loved more than her own eyes.

Catullus, Carmen 3

As evidenced by this brief passage from the funeral dirge of the first century (BC) Roman poet Catullus, the sparrow has been a subject of art and admiration (even tongue-in-cheek adoration) for thousands of years.  I found this golden crowned sparrow perched in the chaparral along the path towards Whaler’s Cove in Point Lobos State Nature Reserve, Carmel, California.  I thought it was a lovely photograph of a beautifully marked bird, but upon closer inspection of the photograph as I was processing the photos at the end of the day, I noticed the rather doleful look on the sparrow.  For an animal that flits about, seemingly without care, this look struck me as rather queer.  Perhaps, like Catullus, I am importing more meaning to the life of a sparrow than reason would suggest appropriate.  Still, this remains my favorite photograph of the many sparrows I have photographed over the course of the last fifteen years or so.

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Roil

SSA Photography (262 of 400)

This photograph was taken on a blustery morning in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California.  The winds were coming through the bay at a fierce clip, and the waves were the largest I had ever seen.  We went on a hike to Point Lobos, and I captured this scene after one of the larger waves had crashed across the rocks – completely covering them in a mix of foam and roil.  One of the apocryphal origins to the name Aphrodite is “risen from the foam,” but I cannot imagine that this was the type of scene the ancients envisioned of her birth.  I think Botticelli got it right.  The violence of the waves made me marvel at the strength of the stone, which has invariably been battered for eons.  Love is like that in many ways, often beaten but never broken…so perhaps the ancients were onto something…

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Aesacus

SSA Photography (253 of 400)

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.

Click here for a larger version.

 

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