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Archive for the ‘landscape’ Category

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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All Revved Up, Know Where to Go

All Revved Up, Know Where to Go

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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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Paul Vanderbilt & Alec Soth’s current Madison exhibits and accompanying text/audio and Frank Gohlke’s Thoughts On Landscape have me thinking about visual rhythms, algorithms and typologies.

Photos individual, paired, in series syncopate with what- anticipations, expectations, apprehensions?– in the viewer. And the resulting resonance renders them meaningful. Or.

The thing in itself, the subject without the photo, the photo without the viewer, retains meaning in situ independent of the intervening  eyes. Is it when the human attention drawn to the object of the len’s affection focusses deeply in that moment,  that the recognition of coincident, adjacent, harmonic- or dissonant– significance in the image(s) occurs? & Association liberates vision from its expectations.

And thinking too much impedes seeing:) A series of random views that made me stop and shoot during recent travels:

Umbrellas at Willow Vineyard, Cape May, NJ

Umbrellas at Willow Vineyard, Cape May

Levitation.  Seaport promenade, Manhattan

Levitation. Seaport promenade, Manhattan (thanks to Liz S. for the tipoff!)

Wisconsin River Autumn, early morning

Wisconsin River Autumn, early morning

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Taking the time to sit down and edit again after a long and busy summer away from blogging. Rainy days like the one we’re having at the moment don’t induce the kind of “carpe diem” guilt that parking in front of a laptop, editing does on a brilliant blue sky summer afternoon.

Here’s a tumble-down tin roof roadhouse sagging toward earth near Muscoda, WI. Old wood and tin, irresistible!

Wooden roadhouse near railroad siding and highway 133 crossing

Wooden roadhouse near railroad siding and highway 133 crossing

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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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