|Saturday, October 23, 2010|
|Learning to See|
|I often think, the best equipment I carry outside into the field isn’t my camera body, or my memory cards, or my lens(es). Not my tripod or my polarizing filter for the wide-angle, to help cut glare on water. Not the battery pack that lets me shoot more frames, one right after another, to photograph nuances of birds in flight. The best “equipment” I carry is my eyes—not just my artistic eye, that hard to describe something that helps transform and edit everything I see at once into (hopefully) a photograph that tells a story, but my literal, bifocaled, eyes. Well, after my heart, that is—and I mean heart in a creative and spiritual sense, not an anatomical one. My eyes have learned to scan a scene; even so, I miss a lot sometimes at first glance. And then, sometimes, I don’t miss a thing.|
The other evening, well late afternoon, really, I noticed the sky was mauve near the horizon; above that was a band of tourquoise and above that, an expanse of blue that darkened until overhead was a deep, typical, fall day blue. I stopped one of our customers on her way out to point out the nuances of color. A painter friend, Liz Corsa, taught me to see, I told her, as I showed her what I was seeing. Oh! I see it! she said, leaving my parking lot a little richer in her visual experience of our beautiful world, I hope. I went to the beach an hour or so later and a sheen on the water threw my perspective off at first, fooling me into thinking the horizon was nearer, and lower when in fact the horizon was right where it should be. A thin blue line reoriented my perception and told me where sea ended and sky began, as did a subtle shift in shade between the palest teal/blue and the palest pink/mauve.
The other morning I went outside into my front yard with Mikey, our Westie. What is that, I wonder to myself, looking at the little apple tree nearest the driveway. I go closer. The tree is in bud, and some buds have opened—in October! Bless your sap, I think to myself, boy are you in for a surprise. It’s not actually spring. Now the tree is more than half in full bloom, looking like April. I’m wondering if the tree will have anything left to give once spring really arrives.
The light was so pretty the other afternoon that I swung quickly into the parking lot at the Colington Methodist Church, in order to walk back a little ways and take a picture of a small boat moored at a little dock with some crab pots. The water was still enough to act as a mirror for the boat. I took a few shots before I noticed the cormorant, spreading its wings in the sun, perched on a piling in the background. Once upon a time I would not have allowed the scene to tug at my senses, and certainly would not have noticed the bird there. But I am learning, slowly, to see.
Mid-to-late afternoon thunderheads and squall lines are frequent in summer here. And all summer long, I have been saying to visitors: these are rainbow conditions. If the sun breaks through in the west while all this cloud and maybe some offshore rain occurs in the east, we may have a rainbow. I have looked for rainbows all summer with no real success, just hints here and there. This past Friday all the conditions were right once again and once again, I shared my “local’s knowledge” with someone from out of town. This time was the right time. At about 4:30, I saw a faint tiny glimmer of a rainbow’s end touching the water to the north. A little later I seemed to discern its doubling, more pale and inverted in its color. As I watched, the rainbow eventually brightened and stretched upward until it arched so largely over the ocean that I could not fit its entire width into one frame. Beautiful.
That afternoon and the next day I watched long lines of pelicans flying south and north. The youngsters are flying with adults now, and for the first time I saw, not once but twice, two juvenile pelicans misjudge the air currents and the water and tumble suddenly into a wave. Neither seemed harmed (I didn’t even notice the self-conscious behavior cats undertake when caught in the act of losing their balance). Instead, both rested a minute and then took to wing again, presumably to catch up with their group. I guess the easy gliding I take for granted really does take practice!
The stormwater catch pond in front of Harris Teeter in Nags Head had a Great Egret in it about a week ago. A few days ago, I saw at least two muskrats in there, taking leafy stalks and swimming off with him to who knows where. At least I think they were muskrats. They seemed a little small for nutria. Yesterday, there was a Great Blue Heron standing quietly in the middle of the pond. I’ve learned over time to look there as I often see something worth seeing.
The Seaside Goldenrod is in full bloom everywhere I look, which might explain why our noses are a little more sniffly than usual. I don’t care if it makes me sneeze; it is October’s color on the dunes, and I love seeing it.
In fact, I love everything I see—from the woodpecker on the snag beside our house, to the winged black somebody dragging a dead spider twice its size across my lawn only to abandon it and dig a small hole in the sandy soil (to…what? Bury the spider? I have no idea.) We haven’t seen our resident fox or the resident bunnies in a while, although a fox did leave us some scat with persimmon seeds—foxes love persimmons—in our parking lot as a gift to let me know, I am sure, that it is well.
And so it is…as you can plainly see for yourselves below. Enjoy.
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|The trailing wisps of cloud made me think of waterspouts but there was no circular circulation.|
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|Practice Makes Perfect. Or as we say in recovery, Progress Not Perfection. Junior flew off again minutes later.|
posted by eturek at 9:01 AM
|Wednesday, October 6, 2010|
|Sunshine On My Shoulders|
|First fall felt like fall, just a little crisper than the past few months. Then it felt like summer all over again, warm and humid. Now it feels like spring to me. The umpteen days of rain have finally yielded to some sunshine but the overnight low last night was 51. Now, at almost 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday Oct. 6, it is not yet 60 degrees. All that rain feels more like our spring than our fall. |
What do I mean by “all that rain”? Well, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which maintains the official weather stats, reports that since September 1, the weather station at Cape Hatteras has logged (or should I say slogged) nearly 13” of rain. That’s about 25% of our total rainfall so far this year.
September came in like a lion, starting with the passing of Hurricane Earl. And it went out like a lion too, with the remnants of Tropical Depression/Storm Nicole (that left most beachgoers in a depression)! The last day of September ended with 45 mph sustained winds and gusts up to 60 mph, according to the weather service. Finally last Saturday we were graced with a lovely sunrise. Then the overcast skies and drizzle returned for a last hurrah only to yield to beautiful sky and sea shows the past two days.
The results of all that rain look more like spring, too: I have mushrooms suddenly sprouting in my yard in all the usual springtime places. My non-native little pink rose and my crepe myrtles are re-blooming. Yesterday morning on the east-facing window screen near our front door sat an upside down praying mantis; the bush under that window held a handsome brown and black grasshopper and several ladybugs. The praying mantis didn’t stay long but the grasshopper and ladybugs were still hanging out this morning.
Who knew there was so much to know about grasshoppers! Is mine elegant? (Does handsome count?) Obscure slantfaced? (That sounds like an insult.) Two-striped? (Where, legs or back?) Short-winged or long-winged? Sheesh, I give up. The most likely species for my species is Brown Winter Grasshopper, I decide. Hey, it’s brown. 51 degrees is definitely edging in the winter-direction after weeks in the 80s and 90s. It has a habit, when disturbed, of diving into vegetation, the online guide I was reading says. I didn’t see it actually dive but it is definitely hanging out there rather than in the grasses that would be a typical grasshopper hangout.
From starting my morning yesterday with diminutive loveliness of the more-legs-than-even-my-dog kind, I ended it with ginormous loveliness in the guise of a no-legs: a way-offshore black breaching whale that leapt twice in my viewing. I have seen a whale spouting here only once in my life and that was back in the spring of 1992. I have never seen one leap out of the water. I had a wide angle lens on my camera and it all happened so quickly there was no way to get even the black spec in an image but what I do have is the feeling of seeing something so profoundly special. One reason I think that I became a photographer is that I don’t have the best visual memory, actually. I remember better what I hear than what I see. It is easier for me to close my eyes and hear loved-ones’ voices than picture their faces. A tiny black arcing crescent that lasted less than a full breath took my breath—and still does, in the remembering.
The reason I got to see the whale in the first place is that I went to the ocean to watch what turned out to be a magnificent light show in late afternoon. One of my lifetime experiences as a little kid was going to the annual Flower Show in Washington D.C. with my folks; an exhibit there featured a “dancing fountain” that had colored lights shining in rhythm on the water. I kept going back and standing in front of it. The fellow running the fountain and lights let me play with the controls that governed the interplay between light and water. Again, I can’t picture so much what that looked like as how it felt. Light dancing on moving water has held a special fascination ever since. Yesterday’s ocean under clouds that were partially lit by a filtered setting sun gave some of that same feeling but in the horizontal rather than vertical visual sense, as the undulating swells and waves peaked and broke and rolled into each other and up on shore, leaving a wave-wash to pick up yet more color and more reflections. Words like dazzling and glorious seem exaggerated but actually fail to convey the sparkle the long-awaited sunshine provided.
All that rain coupled with all that wind has left many sea oats looking bedraggled—although I did spy one stand of re-blooming yucca. A sign of approaching winter for me is the loss of the sea oats in the landscape, as the loss of osprey is a sign of impending autumn. Even though I had seen an occasional osprey even after Hurricane Earl’s passing, I have seen none after the rains and winds of last week.
What I did see, last Sunday afternoon, was an amazing congregation of egrets in several pine trees on the lee shore of the sound in Colington.: amazing because while egrets do like to nest and roost and forage together, we in Dare County most often see them either singly or in small groups, not in large ones. The egrets stayed put almost all day but were gone by the next morning. Pete spotted them first, prompting us to turn around and pull over for a better look. I am so glad we had an appointment that led us out of Colington or the rain and gray might well have kept me home-bound most of the day, and I would have missed them altogether.
That brings me to my final thought. So often I say, I am at the right place at the right time. Just look at the past few days: egrets, a breaching whale, incredible light on the ocean, blooming yucca, springtime insects. I say this in gratitude for what is, so often, my life experience. I say this as intention which in turn sets the stage for life experiences to come. I set my compass toward gratitude and beauty, and beauty and gratitude find me—and give me gifts to share with you, the best thanks of all.
posted by eturek at 10:08 PM