Here today, gone tomorrow

A word about what I’m up to here.  I make no claim to photographic prowess.  I’m just a point & shoot chimp with a cheap cellphone camera.  Something catches my eye and I point my phone at it; given my aging eyesight and outdoor reflections, I can rarely get a good look at the image on the screen.  There may be adjustments the camera can make, for brightness and focus and such, but so far I am totally unaware of them.  So what the camera sees and registers is what I get, with very little control involved.

And then there’s that annoying digital delay, aside from my uncertain touch on the “shutter.”  If Cartier-Bresson’s photographic creed could be summed up in “the decisive moment,” then mine can be expressed as “the indecisive moment.”  More randomness, less art.

All the decisions come after the fact, as I winnow the images down.  There’s a first cut when I connect phone to computer, deleting all the obvious misses.  Then after transferring to computer, I do another selective cut.  Then I go through the remainder repeatedly, matching shots against each other for binary choices – this stays, that is deleted.  Then I go through again, cropping or digitally tweaking photos as needed, meanwhile developing the through-line of the photo essay.  Then I upload the survivors to WordPress, create a gallery sequence, and add captions.

The aim is to document one of the central preoccupations of my life – walking in nature – and to take advantage of its repetitive nature, in order to create a record of favorite walks and places in various seasons.  From prolonged experience, I know where and when to find many natural delights in the northern Berkshires, so I can go there at the right time to catch their flourishing.

I don’t know nearly as much about the Mount Greylock region as Thoreau knew about Concord, but the impulse is the same, to see a lot in a little place, a world in small, infinity in an infinitesimal space.  I seek transports and transcendence close to home, in the here and now, in the near and dear.

Which brings us to this spontaneous little photo-essay, in an adventitious moment when long-awaited rain sprouted mushrooms in a familiar spot alongside the driveway.  I saw them first one afternoon, then again the next morning, and then they were gone again.  But I was there to catch their passage.  Please join me in regarding the humble, evanescent beauty of the world as it is.


Homeground through summer solstice

This is a very mixed bag of pictures from June, all taken in the immediate environs of our house.  Some key photos were lost along the way, in my effort to show the changes in the vicinity over the course of the month.  So this is a transitional post, leading into the summer proper.

Let me acknowledge, once and for all, that all plant identifications are courtesy of the Audubon Lady (aka CE).  I don’t pretend to knowledge I don’t have.  (As always, click on upper left “home” picture to start carousel.)

Haying season walk uphill

We’re heading uphill in mid-June through fields where the hay is being taken in.  But before we head out, let me call your attention to my newly-posted essay, “On Being Seventysomething.”

(Click on upper left photo to start carousel.)

I was back a few days later to catch some of the colors and textures of the hay in the upper field, before it was cut.

As was underway in the middle field:

Moseying around the old homestead

Staying close to home in the first week of June, seeing what I could see within a hundred yards of the house, and following the succession of blooming vegetation.  (Click on upper left photo to start carousel.)

First spring forays into Greylock

The road up into Mount Greylock Reservation opened a little later than usual this year, so it was the end of May before I got in my first walk on my favorite trail, Northrup.  Wasn’t planning to take pictures and wasn’t sure how far I’d get with my gimpy knee and the possibility of rain.  But once I got as far as the woodland bridge that is frequently my turn-around point, I decided I needed to capture the evanescent opening of the ferns, since the moment might be past the next time I walked this path.  Once I got going with that, it was only a matter of time till I reached my more distant destination, the beaver pond complex at the foot of Rounds Rock.

In the handbook, Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography, one thing that caught my eye was the entry, “Ferns are generally found deep in the forest, only by those who have honestly searched.  They symbolize humility, frankness, and sincerity.”

I definitely don’t imagine a headstone for myself at any time, but if I did, it would feature a fern.  The symbolism helps explain the transcendental enthusiasm I feel walking into the ferny forest along the Northrup trail or elsewhere in Greylock.  Up to reading that, I’d ascribed the thrill to the fern’s primordial character, as among the oldest living things on earth, as well as their graceful unfolding and intricate design, individually and en masse.  Now I see that the fern is my spirit plant, as clearly as the blue heron is my spirit animal.

And with the book I’m reading at the moment – Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers, and Why They Matter, by Ben Goldfarb – I was more than usually interested in reaching the beaver pond.  For my own account of an up-close-and-personal encounter with a beaver, see here.

And click on bridge at upper left, as usual, to start carousel of this particular spin through the woods.  (Did some Don Draper really come up with the name that is still applied to a slide sequence?)