I do not believe in portent and thought it simple coincidence when a Scarlet Tanager flew past the very first time we walked the farm. I was made to wonder, however, when another visited when we first explored the wood at this new place.
He said that he had glimpsed fringed orchis along the road. She took the news as a sure omen of good things to come.
And so it has been.
. We walked, around and to the southwest. To watch the surf, pulled by tide and compelled by wind. Sand, bits of shell, and other tiny things caught in swirl and eddy. To settle in unplanned arrangements.
A portion of molten glass would be attached to a pontil rod. Air was then blown through the rod and into the mass to form a bubble. When it reached an appropriate size the bubble was opened, the rod was spun, and sheet glass would form by centrifugal force. Once cooled, the glass was cut. The thinnest was at the edge and the thick, opaque, area around the mark left by the pontil was known as the crown or bullseye. This technique was used well into the 17th century. While advances in glass production were introduced in the 19th and early 20th centuries, it wasn’t until 1957 that techniques used to produce float glass were developed in the United Kingdom.
The farm traces its origins to 1652. Nothing went to waste back then and bullseyes were installed above the transom of the solid front door to allow light to illuminate the hall. These were mounted high up and I needed something to stand on. The chairs and tables were antique so I lifted the camera above my head and stood on tiptoes. From where she stood she could see the LCD and provided guidance … left, too far, OK, up, more, down, OK. The larger shot shows evidence of the molten glass having been spun during production.
. With eyes closed, the perfumed air the sand beneath my feet the salt on my lips and the ill-belayed halyard tell me where I am.
The work of fellow blogger Gary, of Photos and a Little More, provided my introduction to the art and emotion of Stone Stacking. I soon learned that there existed a deep divide in opinion regarding the practice. Artists were supportive of it and environmentalists were dead set against it. Stackers argue that not only is Rock Balancing a legitimate art form, but the practice has an emotional, even spiritual, component to it. Those who oppose the practice explain that stacks are not cairns (and could be dangerous if mistaken for them), they are pointless reminders of human ego, and lead to erosion of natural areas and to disturbance of the organisms living in them. I do not mean to imply that the opinions of these groups do not overlap, for they do, and I understand the concerns of both.
She wanted to walk. So we made for a place we had visited before. I’ll meet you in an hour, she said.
Having settled on a shallow cascade, I began. I hadn’t worked stone for quite a while and was surprised that it took time to find my hands. I pushed back against my propensity to rush. I struggled to focus and to avoid thinking too far ahead.
She says that the steady rhythm of the wheel, the coordinated motions of her feet and hands, and the feel of fiber slipping by the tips of her fingers and wrist, combine to transport her to a place of peace. For me, stacking creates a similar sort of space and being there has given me some idea of what it might be like to meditate.
It’s not miraculous. Or surprising, amazing, or startling. Nature is, in my own view, awesome. But not in the negative sense of causing either fear or apprehension. Nature engenders awe, admiration, and wonder. Awe and Admiration, in the sense of respect. And wonder, expressed as an unending series of questions. For example.
I have always wondered why many organisms are so brightly colored. Surely they display to identify and to attract mates. But why would a fungus, living deep within a layer of woodland debris, be so boldly pigmented? Warning coloration, perhaps, and quite likely in this case. But what about lovely and luminescent Chaetopterus, a worm which lives within a parchment tube buried in ocean sediment? Or the opalescent layer of shimmering nacre found on the inside of a snail’s shell? I think rather than hasten to assign adaptive value to the ways of nature, it may be helpful to remember that it may not always be possible to do so. In some cases science is not able to tease and to discern the myriad connections between and among forces of causation. They may be indivisible and, therefore, unknowable.
Several weeks ago I talked about a fascinating plant parasite called Ghost Pipe. Here’s another, Indian Pipe, which derives nutrients from mycorrhizal fungi with which it is found. Although both of these plants belong to the same phylum, they occupy different plant orders. Ghost Plant belongs to a group which includes tea, blueberry, and azalea while Indian Pipe is a close relative of herbs such as mint, basil, and rosemary.
In a genealogical sense, these plants are only as closely related to each other as placental mammals are to marsupials. Although I cannot tell you how long ago their common ancestor may have lived, I am certain that it was photosynthetic and not an achlorophyllous parasite. So, parasitism evolved, independently and de novo, in each line. It is surely an effective way of making a living and there is every reason to expect the niche to have been exploited by species from vastly different groups. Plant form is constrained by the chemical and physical nature of life on this planet. That two, unrelated, forms should express the same solution to the complex question of survival is to be expected. It is simply an outcome of first principles.