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Archive for the ‘ecology’ Category

In the midst of car dealer row & six lanes of traffic on Odana Road in Madison, this #Wisconsin:

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After an early season, single digit deep-freeze, SW Wisconsin warmed up into the 40’s this weekend. Those kind of rapid temperature swings over a day or two produce heavy, gorgeous fog in the river bottoms. The winter river’s austerity, creaking ice, tufted marshes and the wet, black boughs of submerged trees swaying against the grey cotton skies produce a kind of reverence for a wildness we cannot know, from which we postmodern humans have been divorced and remain, most of the time, estranged. Therein the deepest yearning lurks as our starved eyes feed on the wilderness we’ve lost.

WI River Bottoms, December 2014

WI River Bottoms, December 2014

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Summertime growing up in Villas, NJ lots of my friends’ families were Catholic, Irish or Italian, some German or Polish. Almost all were blue collar, factory & shipyard workers. Or they got by otherwise. Some stayed with grandparents. The blessed Virgin was ubiquitous: on dashboards, front lawns, jewelry, framed next to her Son in every dining room where the mother fed the neighbor kids as well as her own. Some kids went to St Raymond’s school on Bayshore Road, but most went back to Philly, where their real homes were; the Villas was for summer vacation, fresh air for the kids, breathing room for mom and the Villas Fishing Club on the bay for men- only. The boardwalk over in Wildwood for everybody with a car or bus fare.

Labor Day Weekend marked the end of summer firmly as a door closing. The following Monday morning the streets were silent, window blinds pulled down, driveways- twelve hours earlier festooned with wading pools, kids, grills, beer bottles & fishing gear, empty. A vacuous quiet descended. Left behind we were all watchers in this new found emptiness, watchful for artifacts of the prior occupants, for signs that summer had existed at all. Mary would stare dolefully back at us from within her blue robes at various locations throughout the neighborhood, daring our trespass.

And then there was St Francis, keeper of beasts & of nature, benevolent & compassionate. Guardian of the wildness inside us all and protector of the earth, he would keep watch along the bay all winter long, and ever after.

Three Visions of St Francis Guarding the Delaware Bay

Three Visions of St Francis Guarding the Delaware Bay

Three Visions of St Francis Guarding the Delaware

Three Visions of St Francis Guarding the Delaware

Three Visions of St Francis Guarding the Delaware

Three Visions of St Francis Guarding the Delaware Bay

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Cows and calves are out on pasture everywhere now. These mommas cast a calculating eye upon me, especially the one huge with calf on the right. Hidden among them is the bull, preoccupied with his duties.

Cowculus, Stitzer, Wisconsin

Cowculus, Stitzer, Wisconsin


After staring at each other for an hour, these beasts seemed almost radiant with life, entirely present in a way that comes rarely to us, without meditation, yoga or prayer. Chew the cud mantra… all on a glorious, warm, sunny day, the most simple gift so gladly presented and received.

Cowculus II. Illuminated Stitzer, Wisconsin June 2014

Cowculus II, Illuminated. Stitzer, Wisconsin.

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Teaseled  clouds and trees

Tall Teasel dominates an abandoned farmstead at the top of Fennimore Hill.

I admired the architecture of these dried tall weeds and discovered their name & history later:

Historical: Common teasel is a native of Europe where it has historically had many uses. The heads of a cultivated variety of teasel are used for wool “fleecing”, or raising the nap on woolen cloth. (Grieve 1995). These heads are fixed on the rim of a wheel, or on a cylinder, which is made to revolve against the surface of the cloth (Grieve 1995). No machine has yet been invented which can compete with teasel in its combined rigidity and elasticity (Grieve 1995). The roots of common teasel are also reported to have various medicinal values ranging from a remedy for jaundice to a cleansing agent (Grieve 1995). http://www.cwma.org/Teasel.html

What struck me was the remark that “no machine has yet been invented which can compete with teasel”. A case of ‘first design, best design’.  The prickly cone shaped heads atop the tall stalks are amazingly tough and durable. More durable that the receding farmstead that the teasel, trees and other encroaching brush and weeds have overtaken. As natural forces will always overtake what people abandon.

Therein a reminder to stay humble. Our tenancy and current dominance over the landscapes of this earth is entirely fleeting.  Grasses, sky and trees around the house appear to have enjoyed a good bit of teaseling on this windy day.   CanonT2i DSLR, 18-135mm f5.6 @1/200, no post-editing except the c. notice.

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I’ve driven past hundreds of times, in all light and weather, trying to catch what this old roadhouse is mumbling. Yesterday I thought someone, maybe a country workcrew had sprayed the grass in front with fluorescent blue paint. When I stopped later that afternoon and walked up close, the blue revealed itself to be wild violets. Like a chunk of the sky blow down at the feet of this abandoned dream. (Photo is RAW, no post-processing except resize for web and copyright txt.)

Abandoned roadhouse, trailers out back, April 2014 SW Wisconsin

Abandoned roadhouse, trailers out back, April 2014 SW Wisconsin

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In reviewing my work  as I decide what to put on display next month, I’m a bit dumbfounded to encounter the common threads running through the photos, regardless of disparate locations, attitudes, equipment and intention at shooting time.  Here are few that I was considering today for “From Back East to Midwest” at Timberlane Coffee in April. If you’re in the vicinity of Boscobel, you’ll want to stop by and share a great cuppa joe  with the good people at Timberlane.

LincolnTunnel Helix, Elizabeth NJ

Lincoln Tunnel Helix, Elizabeth, NJ. “Now about 74 years old, the Lincoln Tunnel is one of the busiest crossings in the world, carrying over 40 million vehicles per year. In addition to passenger cars and trucks, each weekday morning, the busiest bus lane in the nation known as the Exclusive Bus Lane, or XBL, operates at the tunnel.”

SW Wisconsin spectators at  Spring Tractor Pull

Ain’t That America: Heartland Red & Green

Rush Hour, Ellenboro

Sunset Rush Hour, Ellenboro Wisconsin

Cove Beach

Cove Beach, from Cape May Point

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