Saturday, June 29, 2013

June of Every Calendar

In one full rotation of the earth, we observe the appearance and disappearance of sunlight. The diurnal cycle of the earth is one of many reoccurring patterns by which we experience time. We also experience time by witnessing seasonal changes and by observing life cycles.

Physicists and cosmologists have long puzzled over the nature of time.

Turning the calendar page of June, I am struck by the artificiality of time. In Snake River Overlook, I write of Ansel Adams' photograph of the Snake River flowing south past the Tetons that it's the:
"June of every calendar"
The Tetons and the Snake River, 1942.
Ansel Adams, 1902 – 1984
The subject, quality of light, and composition of Adams' grand image strikes a universal chord. Like the predictable cycles of sunlight, or the predictable ticks of a metronome, Adam's dramatic image is memorable enough to become popular iconography.
“Green was the silence, wet was the light, the month of June trembled like a butterfly.” Pablo Neruda, 1904 – 1973.
Like clocks, calendars are a relatively recent invention that give us analogs to diurnal and seasonal events. We mark time by calendars. Calendars and clocks name and objectify what we can sense with less precision. Clocks and calendars allow us to attend to time and arrive at appointments at the appointed time.

Time is like months rendered in panels. Which panel is June? Is it the panel behind, the panel ahead, or both?

Pine Trees (ink on six folded screens)
Hasegawa Tōhaku, 1539 - 1610
Time is a voyage of moments. Moments are neither discrete or continuous. It is time that affords us the distance to mark milestones, but perhaps more urgently, it is time that gives us the space for discovery.
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”Marcel Proust

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Enduring Images of the American West

Several surveys and expeditions of the American West were sponsored by the US government in the latter half of the 19th century. Painters, naturalists, and photographers joined these expeditions to record and document their encounters in diaries, sketches, paintings, and photographs.

An enduring legacy from these expeditions are collections of stunningly beautiful sepia-toned photographs using state-of-the-art photographic equipment of the day.

Notable among the photographers who documented the American West were William Henry Jackson and Timothy O'Sullivan.

Crater of the Castle and the Crested Hot Spring (1875?-1885?)
by William Henry Jackson (1843 - 1942)

William Henry Jackson joined the 1870 and 1871 Ferdinand Hayden expeditions of the Yellowstone River and Rocky Mountains. Hayden and his men were dispatched to chart the west, identify navigational routes, and to observe plants, animals, and geological conditions. Jackson's photographs were instrumental in establishing Yellowstone National Park.

Jackson's photographic equipment included:

Timothy O'Sullivan joined several extended expeditions as a photographer including the United States Geological Survey exploration of the 40th parallel (1867 to 1869), and the survey west of the 100th meridian for the War Department (1871 to 1874).

A view across the Shoshone Falls, Snake River, Idaho (1874)
by Timothy O'Sullivan (1840 - 1882)

The view cameras of the era used glass photographic plates. The photographer had to coat, expose, and develop the image onsite before the collodion emulsion dried.

Depending on the light conditions, exposure times varied between 5 seconds and 20 minutes. The image the photographer had to compose was upside-down because the direct optics from the lens rendered it upside-down on the ground-glass screen of the view finder.
“Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed ... We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in.”
― Wallace Stegner, The Sound of Mountain Water


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Forces Deep

Bridge over the Alfagja rift valley - the boundary
of the Eurasian and North American plates.
Forces deep within the earth separate continents.

Rift valleys occur from the separation of continental plates.

The pulling apart of plates creates a linear-shaped lowland that, on land, is gradually deepened by erosion.

When continental spreading forces are strong enough, a center block will drop relative to the flanking blocks leaving steep flank walls.

Mid-Atlantic Ridge

The most extensive rift valley is the result of sea floor spreading. It is found in the subsurface of the Atlantic Ocean along the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.

This massive rift valley is expressed on land as it transects the interior of Iceland.

“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don't even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child -- our own two eyes. All is a miracle.”
Thich Nhat Hanh


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Enjoy the Walk

Walking on Path in Spring
by Ma Yuan (c.1190 - 1279)
From repeating patterns follow well-worn paths.

The word humility comes from the Latin humilitas which is a noun related to the adjective humilus.

Humilus translates to "grounded" or "from the earth" since it, in turn, derives from humus meaning:
the earth beneath us.
A grounded person is considered sensible or down-to-earth. One who is down-to-earth is considered practical and realistic.

Down-to-earth implies stable footing which is contrasted with the notion of having a head in the clouds which implies instability.

Considering the known universe gives us a dose of perspective. We wonder is the universe finite? Or as cosmologists suggest, are there an infinite or finite set of universes called the multiverse?

Acknowledging how little we know inspires and humbles.
"Who is more humble? The scientist who looks at the universe with an open mind and accepts whatever the universe has to teach us, or somebody who says everything in this book must be considered the literal truth and never mind the fallibility of all the human beings involved?" Carl Sagan
I find when I acknowledge the miracle of chance and I begin to comprehend my insignificance, what follows is awe, appreciation, and humility.
"Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first." Mark Twain
Walking on-path or off-path might have different consequences, but one eventually leads to the other.

You are practically nothing. Enjoy the walk.


Saturday, June 1, 2013

Discipline of Perception

What is the sense of wonder? Perhaps language was invented to deconstruct and to objectify the data we collected through our senses.
"Language, she said, was just our way to explain away the wonder and glory of the world. To deconstruct. To dismiss. She said people can't deal with how beautiful the world really is. How it can't be explained and understood."
Chuck Palahniuk

Glacier and the Tree by Alex Proimos

How is beauty perceived?

Much of perceived beauty cannot be explained. The path toward deepening one's understanding is a discipline as gratifying as it is perplexing.

Photograph by Aleš Jungmann
"Listen closely... the eternal hush of silence goes on and on throughout all this, and has been going on, and will go on and on. This is because the world is nothing but a dream and is just thought of and the everlasting eternity pays no attention to it."
Jack Kerouac

Photograph by Aleš Jungmann