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The World, In Retreat. October 24, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Love and Death.
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Ah, the lushness of summer.  The fulsome green of the lawn springing back at every step, the torpid afternoons in a slow motion quest for shade.

And then, the crisp morning air and predictably ridiculous colors of autumn, sharp and fresh and visually alive like no other season of the year.

And now, this:

The leaves have largely taken flight, carpeting the ground and gutters and back roads with their faded forms, the yellows and reds resolving into ochers, self-composting into a faintly fetid film of veins and edges and visions of their past glory.

And the farms, the fields, the fertile lands, draining the suppleness from their delicate parts, stiffening, transforming their white noise rustle into a rattle of resistance and, finally, accepting that they are to return to the earth, become carbon and nitrogen and a part of next season’s promise.

The broad leaves of corn husks surrender to the season, opening wide to reveal their porcelain offering to The Next Time, when the moist soil and insistent sun will call them to do it all again:

[Elliot surprised me here with a twist of his eye and an unanticipated eight degrees of swing, planting his plane of sharp focus down along this deserving cornrow.

Nice job, Kid.]

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Sunderland, MA. October 22, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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A Saturday morning errand in Hadley turned into a circuitous ride home through North Hadley and into Sunderland, and a pre-planned, productive day devolved into a swivel-headed odyssey in search of Beauty.

I hate  it when that happens.

But happen it did, and nothing got crossed off my “to do” list.  Instead I mudded around on farm roads, keeping an eye out for folks who might own the place and appreciate me asking if they minded.  [As kind of an aside, people almost never mind me photographing their places, but they always  mind me not asking.  Ask, and you shall receive permission.]

I pulled off a side road at a gone-by field of asparagus, liking the low light and the threatening skies, and ran into the owner.  Ed not only pointed me toward a particularly photogenic part of his property, but offered me as much butternut squash as I wanted.  It was sitting in a wooden crate and not going anywhere soon enough to pay him for the trouble.  I accepted his offer with heartfelt thanks.  [That’s how asking permission works.  ;)]

His asparagus fields had taken on that golden hue which autumn brings them:

I liked that view of the barn, and this one of an impudent Jimson weed bearing its strangely spiny “fruit” amidst the asparagus:

These seed pods give it the moniker “Spiny apple,” but they’re not at all apple-like.  It’s incredibly toxic stuff, damaging livestock which eat it and people who think its vaunted hallucinogenic properties are worth that damage.

I continued north as clouds massed threateningly, heading toward Mt. Sugarloaf.  It was across the river in Deerfield, but very much dominated the scene in Sunderland:

These three are Elliot’s work; he likes the planar places.

More from Sunderland soon.

Lowlands’ Lament. February 24, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Love and Death, Politics and Society.
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Half an hour’s drive east of here, the Deerfield river flows into the Connecticut, New England’s longest and grandest waterway.

The lowlands of the Connecticut are legendary for their fertility.  For the hundred centuries since the draining of ancient Lake Hitchcock, yearly floods have replenished the fertile flood plain with organically rich silts, turning the once-lake-bottom into some of the most productive farmland in North America.  For generations, the Connecticut River Valley was an exporter of cash crops, most notably tobacco, and in the last century, the fabled Hadley asparagus.  The latter has of late succumbed to a rust blight and is now in decline.

As population in the valley grew and the bottom lands were developed, however, the cost to individuals of the yearly Spring floods, some of which were really quite monstrous, prompted calls for control of this awesome force of nature.  Dams were built, levees erected, and except for rare breaches, Civilization was saved.

But as with all such human interventions, there were unforseen consequences.  The end of the yearly floods marked the beginning of the decline of the region’s reign as Bread Basket (or humidor, as the case might be) of The Northeast.  Crop yields dropped even as the amount of fertilizer needed increased, raising the cost of doing business and driving much of the commercial farming elsewhere.  While Summer still sees the valley bottom sown with corn, tobacco and assorted pumpkin patches, the area has lost its preeminence as a commercial farming hub.

Here’s a winter eve’s view of the Holyoke Range, with Mount Tom’s impressive basalt escarpment in relief on the right, as seen across a stubble of corn between Northampton and the Great River itself:

Stars are just beginning to twinkle at upper left in this thirty-second exposure, while the Milton coal-fired power plant’s stack glows malevolently red in the gap where the Connecticut transects the range.

This image reminds me of Western landscapes I’ve loved forever, and I intend to mine this spot through the seasons until you beg me to stop.

😉

G’Morning! July 27, 2008

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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After a night of rain, the sun rises, and with it, the river:

We’ve been needing the rain; crops and gardens are behind schedule:

Now the race is on, with the weeds taking an early lead and my garden plants struggling to stay competitive.

At least the woodchucks haven’t returned!