The texture of time and disposition

We use the phrase Tincture of time to express the understanding that, whether insults be physical or emotional, they always get at least a little better, with time. The title of this post is different, for it reads Texture of time. Objects in three-dimensional space can be textured. All one has to do is look at these weathered shutters hanging on an old brick farmstead to know that it is so. It’s the fourth dimension, time, that I’ve been wondering about the last day or so. Does it have a texture too? Time certainly leaves its textured mark on physical objects. Mortar dries and cracks. Cracks allow water in, water freezes, expands, and fissures become holes. This takes time and the holes may therefore represent one of the many manifestations of time. There is no doubt that time leaves its mark on the human visage, a fact of which I am reminded each time I am presented with a mirror. I wonder if personal history, as it is expressed as personality, has texture as well? If time has been good to us, then its influence may manifest in a good outlook and a positive disposition. If we have been unlucky, and time has not been kind to us, perhaps the result is a more negative view of ourselves and of our situation. Might it be that, as we navigate the future, the ways in which we do so are influenced by the texture of our personality? It seems reasonable, I suppose, that history forcefully and irreversibly determines who we are. But, I wonder, is there no role to be played by our genes? May we be predisposed to responding to life’s exigencies in a positive way if we possess alleles which code for positive outlook and disposition? Other allelic forms may predispose us to assuming a more negative view of things. If outlook is genetic, I wonder whether or not we can rise above this predisposition, if it is negative, and see the bright side? I like to think that we may. I also like to think of the way in which we view ourselves, others, and the world within which we live, as an ever-changing amalgam of genetic expression and historical influence.


Silo and perhaps a touch of Histo(plasma)

Silos are interesting and often beautiful things, especially the old ones. There was a small one here at the farm when we arrived. Because we didn’t intend to produce silage, we viewed the thing as a liability and, in any case, someone else could certainly have put it to better use. We placed the following add in the paper: Concrete slab silo. Free. You disassemble. You haul. Amish from Sugar Valley got in touch and the thing was gone within a week. The silo shown below stands tall at Wayne’s; I was there over the weekend. Joanna was spinning and so, as usual, I took a walk. I looked and discovered that the silo was empty. In one direction the concrete bunker on which I stood extended to form the foundation of the silo, and in the other it merged with the foundation of the barn. The floor of the bunker was five feet below ground level and I figured I could get down by climbing iron bars on the outside of the silo which formed supports for the wooden doors you can see in the image. The last few doors were not in place and the opening provided access to the inside. The floor was a foot lower than the lowest level of the bunker, I stepped down. As soon as I entered, everything became quiet. I looked around. There was no question of how I would compose this image, for there was only one obvious way (to me at least) to record the circular interior. I extended my tripod to its full height and turned the camera body straight up to place the central focus point on the roof far above. I’m not a tall person and, even so, I had to contort to get my eye under the camera to check the view. Looking straight up through the finder was like standing on my head – it made me quite dizzy. The light from above attenuated quickly as it traveled into the belly of the silo and it was quite dim where I stood. I would have to take a number of exposures and compile them, a technique I have discussed here before. The image below is a sandwich of thirteen images which ranged in exposure from 20 seconds to 1/30 second. The composite allows properly exposed views of all of the interior, including the brightly lit upper reaches and the very dimly lit bottom. I told my good friend Maurice that I had visited this place over the weekend, and that he should anticipate this image. I recounted that once I entered the confines of the structure my mind became myopically focused on photography. I was only dimly aware that the ground beneath my feet was spongy. Footfalls felt and sounded as if I was walking on a combination of peanut hulls and dry bath sponges. I did not think about the clouds of I-know-not-what that billowed each time I moved my feet. Eventually though, thoughts about the supportive capacity of the substrate became more and more intrusive. Perhaps I was standing on a sort of Crème brûlée made of little bits of corn, mold, and an accumulation of bird droppings. Perhaps I would, in an instant, find myself waist-deep in the unmentionable mix. The dust I was breathing became more and more of a preoccupation. The words Histoplasma, Cryptococcus, Salmonella, and E. coli had been flashing, just that-side of consciousness as to be a bother … then they began to impinge to a degree which I could no longer ignore. I took a few more shots and collapsed my tripod. With my back to the door I put one foot, and then the other, down to the ground gingerly and made for daylight. I backed out of the door, into the bunker, and made my way up and into the fresh air. I hope you enjoy the image below. Joanna observed that the depth of the structure was lost to her such that she saw everything as if it had been collapsed into a series of two-dimensional, and concentric, rings. What do you see? Before signing off, I wonder how many know of the fascinating series of I Spy books. I Spy Tyto … do you?


Tree huggers

I believe the term Tree Hugger is used in the pejorative by many of our neighbors. Pairodox is situated in rural Pennsylvania, William Penn’s Woods. The Pennsylvania timber industry operates here and in all (67) counties, producing more than five billion dollars in forest products each year. This is tree country and trees are big business. That being said, those of us who prefer live trees to dead ones are more often than not labeled Tree Huggers. We are teased for believing that living trees have value which exceeds whatever price may be had for them expressed as pieces of dimension lumber. As I drove for morning coffee I listened to a piece which aired as part of a radio program, The Allegheny Front. The story told of a dance troupe from Pittsburgh that was preparing a performance, the focus of which was conservation. The show is entitled Prakriti-Maatrikaa, Mrittikaa, which translates as An Ode to the Mother Goddess and Nature. In part, the performance tells of the Bishnoi (followers of vaishnavism, a branch of hinduism which grants reverence to Vishnu) who protect trees and wildlife as part of their sacred, religious, tradition. It also tells of the Chipko Movement born in the foothills of the high Himalayas. As the primary gatherers of food, fuel, and water, Bishnoi women have always had strong motivation to protect their natural surroundings. As a result of government policies which sought to harvest and sell timber for foreign exchange, the Bishnoi forests were being cut down, ecosystems were becoming increasingly desertified and destabilized, and water quality was suffering. It was in the light of these dire circumstances that groups of courageous women joined hands, literally (Chipko means to clasp), to encircle trees which were being threatened by loggers from the outside. And therein may be found the source, and significance, of the term. I am proud to be a Tree Hugger … and so is Joanna (the image shows her getting close to a Giant Redwood along the Tall Trees Trail, part of the Red Wood National Park in California). I hope that somehow those brave and brilliant woman shown in the first image know that the tradition of Tree Hugging continues in our expressions of respect for and in efforts to preserve those denizens of deep-time … trees.

An ode to stick season

After a morning of house cleaning and farm chores we looked up at the clear sky and decided that it wasn’t too late for an adventure. Leonard Harrison State Park, in nearby Tioga county, provides easy access to the Pine Creek Gorge; what the locals refer to as the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon. The valley there is 800 feet deep and nearly 4000 feet wide. In comparison, the Grand Canyon averages 10 miles wide and its greatest depths plunge more than a mile beneath its rim. So, ours is a small Grand Canyon to be sure. There was blue sky above when we reached the trail head to the Turkey Path. As we descended the gorge however the clouds rolled in and by the time we reached the creek bed it was clear that north central Pennsylvania was well into Stick Season (Stick Season is a phrase new to me and one which I learned from reading a post by fellow photographer Stephen Gingold. He described it as that time of year known for its lack of woodland color). I had been looking forward to this little adventure for more than a week and was crushed at the dearth of color and photographic potential with which I was presented. I scanned the drab vista, a near-colorless, late fall, pallet. I noticed that a few cairns had been constructed some distance from the shore. There was nothing for it, I walked into the rapidly flowing creek to get closer to my only available subject. The water was cold and the rocky bottom seemed more than usually slippery. Joanna and Darcy had gone for a walk and were out of sight. I walked slowly, and with care. When Joanna returned, we agreed that evening was approaching and, although our descent into the gorge hadn’t taken long, getting back to the rim might be a bit more arduous. We started back. On the way, Little Fourmile Run descended noisily along the walls of its nascent gorge. Although Stick Season had, I thought, rendered the surrounding wood colorless, the sandstones, siltstones, mudstones and shales that formed the valley walls lay exposed, alternating in subtle slices of gray, red, brown and green pastel. Perhaps this place hadn’t been devoid of visual interest after all. Perhaps I should have stopped to remember that there is more to nature’s beauty than vibrant spring and summer color. If I had, I would have been able to enjoy the colorless beauty of Stick Season. For as I stood in the creek I knew there was beauty in motion, all around. There was motion in the water which surged around my ankles. There was motion in the trees which recorded movements of the wind which traversed the valley to the south. As I stood there was beauty in the sounds which surrounded me. The sounds of the wind. The sounds of rustling leaves. The sounds made by the water as it flowed, for there is no such thing as perfect and unperturbed stream flow; boulders, rocks, cobbles, stones, gravels, and sands all impede progress and eddies and waves produce the chaotic music of moving fluid. And, there were smells. Smells of wet soil and of decaying organics, and of the clean air itself. And, there was texture. Texture in all that was alive, all that had died, and all that lay dormant. All of these inputs, though they lacked that very particular modality which we sense as color, combined to provide a complex sensory message. Inputs came from the stream, the riparian transition to woodland, the wood itself, and from the skies above. What was I thinking when first I thought that Stick Season lacked interest? Interesting things are always there to delight us. To find them we must learn to adjust the ways in which we perceive this place in which we live.



Retrospective twenty (October 2013)

Given the way in which blogs are presented, I am convinced that posts which reside more than a scroll or two behind the most recent are doomed to languish and to be forgotten. Because I believe there is value in looking at contributions from days, weeks, and even months ago, I present here a gallery of images presented during October of 2013. Perhaps it will be interesting to scroll through these and to compare them to those presented during this past month. Be patient, it may take several minutes for all of the images to load fully. Hovering over an image will reveal its title. Clicking one will take you to a carousel view and you can either move through the collection or click the links to read each post in its original form. Note that this is the twentieth in my series of retrospective posts. You may find interest in taking a look at the retrospective from a year ago and if you missed any of the others, you can find them all by clicking Retrospective in the tag cloud in the sidebar.


After posting an image of the snout of a combine one reader said that she looked forward to seeing more of the machine. Although I can’t present a combine set to harvest a corn crop, I can show you what the business end of a working soy bean head looks like. I have already reported that the bean harvest began at Wayne’s over the weekend and it was there that I was able to capture these views of a John Deere 7720 Titan II. It has a turbocharged diesel engine that puts out 145 horsepower to drive the 20,000 pound machine. Although a combine is a pretty large and formidable piece of farm equipment, its principles of operation are straightforward. If you look closely at the first image, down at ground level, you will see the metal fingers of the cutter bar. Once the bean stalks are cut by the reciprocating blade, the crop is delivered to the auger by the sweeping motion of the reel. A rapidly moving belt then delivers the plants deep into the combine where they are threshed to separate the grain from the remainder. The former is stored in a bin, and off-loaded periodically, while the latter is discharged back onto the field. It all sounds pretty simple but to walk around a combine such as this is to be overwhelmed by an array of very heavy drive belts, pulleys, chains, sprockets, shafts, motors, hydraulic hoses, and cables. It always amazes me that the darn things actually work … and work, they do.

POSTSCRIPT: My good friend Maurice, at Duck? Starfish? But … 23? passed the following along for my appreciation. I responded that Joanna and I watched, and listened, smiled, laughed, and then smiled a bit more. Thanks Maurice.

Primary panes

We attended another sheep-to-shawl meeting over the weekend. The plan was to spin enough weft to weave a scarf as a trial for the state championship scheduled for January. I always bring along my camera to keep busy while Joanna practices with the team, so I was off to explore. Wayne’s family was well into the bean harvest with 70 acres taken in on Saturday, leaving 20 more to bring in when the meeting was done. The corn would follow. I walked about and eyed the photographic potential of the combine, tractors, wagons, elevators, and grain bins. Nothing caught my fancy. I walked among the sheep, chickens, and bales of haylage. I walked the corn fields and what remained of the beans. Then I noticed that one of the barn windows was missing and the one immediately adjacent looked different somehow. I walked over and discovered an entire frame of colorful panes – how wonderful. I wanted to shoot inside-side-out, so I lifted the latch to one of the small doors, ducked, and stepped inside. The wind was howling but the air was still enough with the door closed. Cobwebs told of the tumult just outside. A space about 20 foot square had been walled off with chicken wire clear to the ceiling. I recall that Wayne housed meat birds here at a time when he was having particular difficulties with varmints. The space was now being used to store poultry equipment, bee hive bodies and supers, a variety of waterers, a few fleeces, and a bit of straw. I walked carefully. When I turned toward the door my eyes were greeted by a most beautiful display of color. I worked hard to steady myself as I stood atop a bale, the strings of which weren’t all that tight. The flakes separated under my weight. Standing on two bales worked better. I could see the farmhouse and summer kitchen through the panes and worked to nestle them, frame them, within the established geometry of the window. Although I didn’t look as closely as I might, I noticed that the panes had texture like that of drawn antique glass. The colors had the same effect, to my eye, as the sepia tones of very old photos. When combined with the texture, I saw age through the panes. It was as if I was looking at the homestead through the lens of time. Having taken what I thought was the shot I got down off my perch and made my way back out into the wind and sunshine, glad for having had a little glimpse at the past.


%d bloggers like this: