The Blues

This is my least-favorite time of year.  Once the calendar tells me it’s spring, I expect blues skies and warm air.  I usually get winter storms.  I never learn that here in Minnesota we can’t expect winter to leave for good until well into April.

So, to counter any depression-type blues caused by the lingering winter, I’ve posted some photos featuring blue-skies-type blues.

 

 

Beautiful Music, Beautiful Places

The first beautiful place is next to a glacier in the Arctic, with beautiful music done by Ludovico Einaudi.  The video was put together by Greenpeace and voicesforthearctic.org.  Notice how Ludovico gasps  in surprise at the beginning of the video when startled by falling ice .  No trick photography in this video – He is there.

Then there is Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia.  2CELLOS, Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser, perform a Mumford & Sons song.

 

Enjoy this beautiful music and then do everything you can to help protect the wonderful places on our beautiful planet, the only one we’ve got.

Countries, societies, people all over the world want to value, treasure, and protect our beautiful, natural places whether in the Arctic, a National Park in Croatia, or Bears Ears National Monument in Utah .  We in the United States have a president and an administration that do not share these values.  They want to remove protections so that our natural heritage can be exploited for financial gain by a few grasping individuals and corporations.  Don’t let them steal what is ours.

Frozen

Portrait Of the Artist As a Frozen Man

Sorry, this isn’t about the Disney movie, it’s about my day out in the cold working on my project to photograph the Chippewa River from source to end.  It was cold: 2° F with a wind chill of -10°.  I was not uncomfortable because I dressed for the weather.  (I recently purchased what I suspect was the last pair of XXL long johns in Stillwater.  I admit my outfit was not very fashionable, but it worked.)  The only problem was my hands.  I had to take off my choppers to take photos.  In areas exposed to the wind, I could only manage two or three shots until my hands became too numb to operate the camera.

When I stood still, all I could hear was the wind hissing through the dry grass and the river ice occasionally booming and popping.   When I walked, I heard the fresh snow squeaking beneath my boots and the old, frozen boards of the bridge deck creaking and snapping under my weight.  I didn’t see another soul all afternoon.

 

 

 

 

Give God the Blues

Some of the lyrics from the song “Give God the Blues” by Shawn Mullins off the album Mercyland:  Hymns For the Rest Of Us.

God don’t hate the Muslims
God don’t hate the Jews
God don’t hate the Christians
But we all give God the blues

God don’t hate the atheists
The Buddhists or the Hindus
God loves everybody
But we all give God the blues

God ain’t no Republican
He ain’t no Democrat
He ain’t even Independent
God’s above all that

Bigger than religion
He’s got a better plan
The sign says, “God’s gone fishing
For the soul of every man”

God don’t hate the Muslims
God don’t hate the Jews
God don’t hate the Christians
But we all give God the blues

And God don’t hate the atheists
The Buddhists or the Hindus
God loves everybody
But we all give God the blues

 

The entire Mercyland album is well worth checking out.  It’s a compilation with various artists:  Emmy Lou Harris, The Civil Wars, The North Mississippi Allstars, The Carolina Chocolate Drops, and others, all providing hymns a bit different from those you hear in church.

 

 

What a Beautiful World This Is

A Beautiful World

 

I’ve been swamped in pessimism lately; pessimism that threatens to become cynicism.  The problem is that I don’t want to be either a pessimist or a cynic, but I thought that all the evidence I was seeing or hearing about the world today suggested that pessimism was justified.  Is it?  Even if it is justified, would it be possible to somehow escape the clutches of pessimism?

I talked to my good friend Nick, the potter and bartender.  He wisely pointed out that pessimism leads nowhere and produces nothing except despair.  He helped me realize that even though intellectually I was wallowing in pessimism, I’m living as if I were an optimist – doing new things, seeking new challenges, always trying to develop my skills and educate myself.

Then, I stumbled across three things this morning.

First was Andrew Sullivan’s weekly long read in the New York magazine, “Trump’s First Year Has Been a Disaster. Here’s Why I Have Hope.”  Sullivan points out that “so many . . . indicators in the world are remarkably good right now.”

In a similar vein, Kevin Drum, who blogs for Mother Jones, posted this morning:  “I’m Just a Big Ol’ Optimist About the Future of America Under Donald Trump.”  Kevin starts

I’ve been meaning to weigh in on the latest raft of pieces about the decline of American democracy, the decline of Western liberalism, the decline of globalism, and the decline of everything else in the era of Trump. In a nutshell, I’m far more optimistic than most of the people writing about this. Unfortunately, I haven’t really thought the whole thing through rigorously enough to make a little essay out of it.

Actually, you might consider that good news. However, I do want to lay down a few markers. Here they are:

Read both these articles for welcome counterbalance to the doom and gloom in much of today’s news.  (Note that neither article is by a Trump or Republican loyalist.)

My other stumble this morning was on YouTube where I stumbled on The Artist Series, videos produced by The Art of Photography.  They are each about fifteen minutes long and are interviews with outstanding photographers.  I watched the one with Keith Carter.  Carter talks about the death of his wife at the end of an illness.  Her last words after looking out the window of their home from her death-bed were “What a Beautiful World This Is.”

After watching that video, how can one possibly remain a pessimist, much less a cynic?

 

2018: Waiting For a Change

Happy New Year 2018

First, check out these songs:

A Change Is Gonna Come – Sam Cooke

Waiting On the World To Change – John Mayer

People Get Ready – The Impressions

The Times They Are a Changin’ – a Dylan song beautifully sung by Tracy Chapman

then consider:

Care more for what you do than what you have

Love not hate

Respect all other human beings, no qualifications

Nurture our planet, its air, water, soil, plants, and all its inhabitants

Observe the Golden Rule; it works

Change is gonna come from each one of us.  As Red Green would say, “We’re all in this together.”  Stay positive and keep the faith.

Happy New Year and best wishes to all during 2018.

Left Hand Turns

A few years ago I took a photo of two, left-hand-turn signs in a field of fresh snow against a cloudless blue sky.  It’s one of my favorite photos.  In the intervening years, left-hand-turn signs have continued to grab my attention until now I have a small gallery of such photos.

No Left Turn

 

 

A Dark Wood

The day before yesterday I finished “In a Dark, Dark Wood”, the scary thriller by Ruth Ware*.  Yesterday I unexpectedly found myself in a dark wood.

My hike took longer than expected, and I forgot that daylight savings time ended recently.  It gets dark very early these days.

So I’m trudging through a dark wood.  There is absolutely no wind, and no creatures are stirring, not even a mouse.  They have all gone south or into hibernation for the winter or have bedded down for the evening.  I can hear a jet far up in the sky but nothing else.  It’s actually a beautiful evening.  More than once I stop to enjoy the quiet and the beauty of the color left behind by the setting sun, color that shows brightly in the crisp, clear evening air.

I was in the Dunnville Bottoms in the floodplain of the Chippewa River in Western Wisconsin.  Here are some scenes from the dark, dark woods in the bottoms, mostly oak forests with many old, gnarly, spooky oaks.

 

 


I thought the book was neither scary nor thrilling, just an average, somewhat entertaining who-done-it.

 

 

Gloomy Weather

A paraphrase:

There´s no sun up in the sky
Gloomy weather
Since my gal and I ain´t together
Keeps raining all of the time
Oh, yeah
Gloom and misery everywhere
Gloomy weather, gloomy weather*
Expert photographers advise when the weather is gloomy, make gloomy photographs.  Here are some from the last few days.  (PS., it’s finally sunny today, cold but sunny.  There are high thin clouds so the sun is not strong, but a weak sun is better than no sun at all.)

 

* Lyrics from Stormy Weather written in 1933 by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler and since covered many, many times.

It’s Not Supposed to Snow!

It was only October 27th, just a few weeks after the fall equinox, but it started snowing as I sat at my kitchen table eating breakfast.  I’m usually in a torpor at that time of the morning, but when, after a half hour, the scene outside my windows looked like the scene in the photo below, I decided I had to get out with my camera.  The results are farther down.  I only got slightly soaked.  It was heavy, wet snow, windy and cold, but I had fun which was my objective.

Outside My Window

 

Aging Disgracefully

St. Croix Islands Wildlife Preserve

Who wants to age gracefully?  Not me.  Old folks just wanna’ have fun.

I sure do, but my doctor suggests that I have morning depression.*  That means I feel wretched in the morning, but if I’m lucky I’ll perk up later in the day.  By the time bedtime rolls around, just like a toddler I don’t want to go to bed; I want to stay up late.

When I woke up this morning, I “was stiff and sore and grumpy.  It felt as though rigor mortis was getting an early start on me.  Sleeping for eight hours is enough to make anything go numb.  Anything that still had feeling to begin with.  Worse yet, there was not a drop of Diet Coke to be found anywhere.  I needed to pee again.   I’m old and have a bladder the size of a lima bean.  Don’t get old.  If Peter Pan shows up, just go.”**

So what do I do in the morning?  I’m not sure I remember.  I know I eat breakfast and check the latest news on the internet.  (Tip for morning depressives:  Never read the latest news in the morning.  You will end up with absolutely no hope.  I of course always read the news in the morning.)

My doctor prescribed light therapy.  I got a light box a few days ago, but it still sits unopened in the box it came in.  I’m too depressed in the morning to open the box much less set up the light.  I’ll do it some night when I am more energetic and haven’t drunk too much beer.

I’ll finish this wretched post by quoting two of my heroes who I’ve quoted before and will likely quote again.

What?  Me worry.    – Alfred E. Newman

Keep on truckin’        – R. Crumb


* In case you were wondering, morning depression (not to be confused with morning sickness or associated with pregnancy, something I’m not likely to experience, being sixty-nine years old and the wrong gender ) is also known as diurnal depression, diurnal variation of depressive symptoms or diurnal mood variation.  I’ll stick with morning depression.

** All quotes are by Sheldon Horowitz, the eighty-two year old protagonist of the novel Norwegian By Night.  I’ve slightly altered the quote to be in first-person and the appropriate tense.

 

 

Advice In Unexpected Places

Thank You For Being Late

Thomas Friedman’s recent book, Thank You For Being Late, is in the Globalization/Political Economy genre according the the ISBN code sticker on the back of the book.  One usually doesn’t look in such books for suggestions about creativity, but that is what I found in the first chapter, also titled Thank You For Being Late.

Creativity involves having ideas and then doing something with them whether you turn those ideas into – in Friedman’s case, a column in the New York Times,  or in my case a photograph.  Friedman says

. . . a column idea [or an idea for a photograph] can spring from anywhere:  a newspaper headline that strikes you as odd, a simple gesture by a stranger, the moving speech of a leader, the naive question of a child, the cruelty of a school shooter, the wrenching tale of a refugee.  Everything and anything is raw fodder for creating heat or light.

How can one nurture the ability to recognize ideas when they appear?

. . . you have to be constantly reporting and learning – more so today that ever.  Anyone who falls back on tried-and-true formulae or dogmatisms in a world changing this fast is asking for trouble.  Indeed, as the world becomes more interdependent and complex, it becomes more vital than ever to widen your aperture and to synthesize more perspectives.

Friedman paraphrases and then quotes Lin Wells of the National Defense University.

. . . it is fanciful to suppose that you can opine about or explain this world by clinging to the inside or outside of any one rigid explanatory box or any single disciplinary silo.  Wells describes three ways of thinking about a problem:  “inside the box”, “outside the box,”, and “where there is no box.”  The only sustainable approach to thinking today about problems, he argues, “is thinking without a box”.

Friedman continues:

. . . it means having no limits on your curiosity or the different disciplines you might draw on to appreciate how [the world] works.  [A person needs to be] radically inclusive.

As a photographer, thinking without a box means not being constrained by accepted norms of beauty or of what makes a compelling photograph.  It means not being constrained by the rules that are trotted out by the experts who then tell us to freely ignore them.  It means not being overly influenced by the latest hot stuff on Instagram or what is winning contests on ViewBug.  It means shooting from the heart.  As Friedman says, “What doesn’t come from the heart will never enter someone  else’s heart.

For me it means walking down an alley behind the stores that present their trendy, polished facades to the main street.  In the alley is where you find the unexpected and serendipitous examples of unexpected beauty.  Below are recent examples of beauty I found in alleys.

Side View Of Galloway Grill
Galloway Grill – Side View

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sundown On the Chippewa

Yesterday around sunset I was at what I consider the most beautiful vantage point on the Chippewa River, or at least it was last night.

Panorama From the North Bank Facing South

I was also on the exposed bedrock along the river near Jim Falls, Wisconsin.  The river has carved out numerous potholes.  I went there yesterday to photograph the potholes.

 

 

 

 

 

Cow In the River

There's a cow in the river.
Having a drink I suppose.
It would be pleasant,
standing in the river and having a drink,
instead of being on this old, rusty bridge.

The river is actually Verdigre Creek just before it flows into the Niobrara River in northern Nebraska.  The bridge is the 885 Road bridge.

 

 

 

Old Omaha

I spent the afternoon wandering around The Old Market in Omaha, Nebraska, camera in hand.  I ended up the day with some sunset photos on the railroad tracks in Columbus, Nebraska.  Here are the best shots of the day.

In Omaha

In Columbus

Sunset Over the Railroad Tracks
Clouds Above the Elevator

 

Experimenting With Flowers

Yellow and Blue

I’ve been experimenting with new things to do with photos of flowers.  Here are some of the results of my experiments.

 

 

Stumbling Through the Corn

I went out yesterday to photograph the Chippewa River in Wisconsin.  I was distracted by the corn fields growing in the bottomlands of the river.  Here are some corn field photos, taken either in the field or on the edge of the field.

 

A Week’s Worth

I made two day trips this week, one to explore the East Fork Of the Chippewa River in Wisconsin, the other a drive through the rolling hills southeast of Independence in Trempealeau County, Wisconsin.

Trempealeau County

East Fork Of the Chippewa River and Things Found Along the Way

One Shot From a Stillwater Parking Lot

Transmission Towers

All Creatures Small and Smaller

Yesterday I was looking for wildflowers.  There were none to be found.  I guess it’s still too early even though the last few weeks have been warm.  The only things I could find that had new growth were big (red maples or willows) or very small.  The small things were mosses and lichens which I find very hard to identify.  I’m satisfied if I can correctly state that something is, in fact, a moss.  The mosses are sending out what I think are called sporophytes.  It had snowed the night before, so much of the foliage – dead or alive – was covered in tiny droplets of melt water.  One had to get down on one’s knees or belly in order to examine or photograph such tiny things.  I was wet by the time I finished.  Luckily, the sun came out later in the day, it warmed up, and I escaped death by hypothermia.

sporophytes and Drops Of Snow Melt

I think this may be a small puffball that survived the winter relatively intact although it looks like it “puffed.”  It was in pure sand.  There were more puffballs in the sand.  They grew only as individuals plants spaced a yard or so away from their neighbors.  All dead of course.

Exploded Puffball

 

More stuff found within an inch or two from the ground.

 

 

 

 

 

Something Odd In the Forest

What Is This?

I spent the afternoon at the Fish Lake State Wildlife Area, a typical afternoon on the trails and in the woods except for the odd object I discovered on the forest floor, no more than a few inches high but looking very malevolent.