River of Ice

SSA Photography (20 of 400)

On the list of the most beautiful natural places I have ever been, Alaska ranks at the very top.  This glacier may have had a name, but so many others did not.  There were simply too many of them.  Beauty was within reach at every point on this trip, whether it was seeing the salmon in the rivers towards the end of their annual run, coming upon a group of ten bald eagles on the bank of a fjord, or paddling next to a huge river of ice that creeps along ever so slowly, carving mountains in its wake.  The force and the majesty of the state was almost overwhelming at times.  I could not capture it all, but this photograph is a stunning reminder of my trip there.  I cannot wait to go back with a renewed focus (and a better camera) to document the awe inspiring beauty of untouched nature.

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Stillwater Cove

SSA Photography (215 of 400)

This photograph, which is part of my Solitary collection, was taken a little after sunrise on the banks of Stillwater Cove in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, just below Pebble Beach.  The photograph is hazy, as the Soberanes fire was burning uncontrolled in the highlands during our visit, casting everything in a sepia glow.  This little sailboat was bobbing amongst the bull kelp and sea otters that frequent the cove.  I was captivated by the lone person on the bow of the boat, who sat there unaffected by the world that was only a hundred yards or so from him.  I, too, was by myself this morning, lost in the beauty of the cove, though the dogs on their morning walks brought me back to reality as they rollicked in the waves.

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Oaken Post

SSA Photography (160 of 400)

This photograph was taken in the Pisgah National Forest outside of Asheville, North Carolina.  The hollowed stump was in a grove of chestnut oaks (Quercus Prinus), and the cavity had become a repository for layers upon layers of chestnut oak leaves, where a small seedling was beginning to grow from an acorn, which had fallen in just the right spot.  As I spoke about the ephemerality of nature in the Emergence post, just days ago, I am also astounded by the rhythm and circularity of nature.  In the chaos of the ferns and brambles, an old hollowed stump sheltered and fostered a month-old seedling, which will some day soon overtake the stump and take root itself.

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Left Behind

SSA Photography (395 of 400)

This photograph was taken on the moors outside Haworth, West Yorkshire, England.  The two figures in the distance are my mother-in-law and her brother, who left my wife, Anna, and I to scramble up and down the moors in a vain attempt to keep them in our sight.  The “walk” (and I use this term loosely) was gorgeous in hindsight, as the pictures attest; however, during the trip (which I contend was on average 98% vertical), I thought my legs were going to give out at least three times.  Nevertheless, I made it, and that in and of itself was an accomplishment.  The photographs that I took were icing on the proverbial cake.

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Kintsugi

SSA Photography (78 of 400)

In an series of three poignant essays, F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote that he was fractured like a dinner plate that you would hide from the neighbors if they came over.  One of the greatest writers of the early 20th Century had indeed “cracked” under the pressure of his own success.  I identified with Fitzgerald’s essays—and Fitzgerald himself—on many levels, except that once cracked up, Fitzgerald never ventured to put himself back together again.

The Japanese have a beautiful word, kintsugi, which is the art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer, generally mixed with powdered precious metals like gold.  Kintsugi, however, stretches far beyond the art form.  It has become a philosophy, which accentuates the breakage and repair of the object as evidence of its history—rather than something to disguise or sweep into the dustbin.  The fractures are part of the object’s story, part of its beautiful memory.

We are all broken, some of us more than others, but these faults, these breaks shape who we are when we come out the other side—but only if we venture to put ourselves back together again like a shattered vase in the hands of an artist.

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Shadow Play

SSA Photography (89 of 400)

Taken at Big Talbot Island, north of Jacksonville, Florida, the lines and shadows of this photograph of driftwood cobbled together on the beach draw the eye to the center of the mass of wood.  After the hurricane last year, this particular grouping of driftwood is no longer on the beach, so I was fortunate to capture it when I did.

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Wooded Ways

SSA Photography (16 of 400)

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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Pebble Hill Cypress

SSA Photography (221 of 400)

This photograph is a morning panorama of the Pebble Hill golf course just outside of Carmel, California.  In fact, the photograph was taken on the beach of Carmel Bay.  Beyond the point at the far left of the photograph is Spyglass Cove, where I have sat a number of times and just watched the sea otters and harbor seals bob between the long, whip-like strands of bull kelp.

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Across the Way

SSA Photography (345 of 400)

This photograph was taken mid-morning from the top of the driveway of the home that my wife’s grandfather built stone by stone over decades from a ruined ostler’s barn that sat on a hill overlooking the home in which my mother-in-law grew up in West Yorkshire, England.  When the Worth Valley Railway was being built, many of the horses used to build the rails were kept in the ostler’s barn on the property, just a short walk to the eventual railway station in Oxenhope.  Anna’s grandfather was a fighter pilot in World War II, and later a textile mill owner, as well as a self-taught stone mason, who worked and kept adding to the home (nicknamed “Ostlerhouse”) quite literally until the day he died.

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