The Shadows Know

plumisland

And can shadows pleasure give?
Pleasures only shadows be
Cast by bodies we conceive
And are made the things we deem
In those figures which they seem.” 

–Samuel Daniel

A gathering Nor’easter announced itself in enveloping unsettling gray, a shadow that abruptly settled over the landscape. It swallowed the sun before it could emerge in a sliver on the horizon. It nullified the morning.

Winter’s dark forces can be powerful indeed.

Eventually light tiptoes back in, almost always defined by shadow.  Today dollops of sunlight made their way through tree cover and splashed on the icy blue-gray sheen atop a foot-and-a-half of fresh snow.  Bright oblong dots formed a jaunty path, as if to guide an unseen deer.

Away from the woods, among abiding dunes, high winds transformed snow into gentle waves cross-hatched with exquisite etchings of sea-grass shadows.

“Feed apace then, greedy eyes,
On the wonder you behold;
Take it sudden as it flies,
Though you take it not to hold.
When your eyes have done their part,
Thought must length it in the heart.”
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When the Planet Shifts

My daughters are both on another continent today, celebrating my elder daughter’s birthday together. Last year’s birthday sunset sky swirled into an enormous bird. I had forgotten that another birthday post, “In the Beginning,” described different facets of the same day. As with all our children, her dad saw her first and so I first visualized her through his words.

Love in the Spaces

emmabirthday1

Before we married, Jim promised me we would have five boys.

Because I was very young, somewhat gullible, and only took college laboratory courses because I had to (notwithstanding my lack of scientific skills), I believed him.

We had two boys in under two years. Promising start.

On a windswept January day the following year we had a few extra hours on our hands: my scheduled delivery had been moved to make way for an emergency one.  (I did not prove much more successful in the childbirth department than I had in the hard sciences.)

We took our toddlers to breakfast at a riverside restaurant where I managed–just barely–to slide my mid-section behind a sturdy stationary pine table where the boys laughed and gave us sticky kisses before we dropped them off to play with friends–and Winston, the venerable bulldog.

Jim had only sisters and I had only brothers, and…

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My Own Private Penguin

2016bestnine

2016’s nine favorite stateside phone camera shots include nine geese-a-flying, six ports, four seasons (heavy on autumn), three states, two sunsets and sunrises, and one heart-shaped bivalve immobilized by the weight of burnished sand.

At the center of my array is a moonless super moon. I caught a single sailboat in its immense silvery shimmer long after the eager ocean photographers had captured their more traditional images and headed home.

(I think Jim would have stuck around in the quiet dark as well, though he would have had a tripod and the right lenses and his shots would have been crisper.)

Only two interior shots, and not a human in sight.

You’d have to know my own interior thought processes awfully well to discern what you can’t see in these pictures: I wasn’t crying when I took any of them (though there was some light weeping on the way to the spiral staircase, but that’s a long story having to do with the last time I had been in Damariscotta, Maine); the autumn tree is in a stunning cemetery in which I walked in work heels through ankle-high crunching fallen leaves; one was the first sunset I sought out in what is now one of my favorite secret sunset spots. And the lighthouse stairwell shot didn’t look quite right going up, though objectively it was nearly identical to the shot I took looking down towards the roiling sea. (“The moments when you’re in so deep, it seems easier to just swim down,” sings my earworm.)

Or maybe it’s my traditional no-one-in-sight landscape photographs, when I’m alone at the lens with my thoughts, which are my interior shots.

Even when outside on New Year’s Eve, packed and pressed by the movement of thousands of people with, let’s say, more traditional human companionship, I feel I’m alone in the dark and inside some weightless barrier.  I’ve looked at others’ photographs from New Year’s Eve: crowds hundreds deep looking towards fireworks, hatted heads and red-cheeked faces poking into frames, selfies miniaturizing seasonal displays.

My shots were different.

I slipped through the maze of a boisterous crowd at least six deep around barricades protecting newly-carved ice sculptures. Alcohol vapor already lingered in the air, and appalling unpleasantries floated from across the street, where a handful of men sat on a curb in a swirl of cigarette smoke.

I found a spot where the crowd melted away into the night and a street-level spotlight became a perigee moon over the shoulder of an ice penguin it turned into mottled gold.  If it’s possible to make eye contact with an ice sculpture, I did.

I get you, little penguin.

perigeepenguin

 

Among my nine photographs I also see myself in that one goose who’s a little off-kilter, a little nick in the spearhead formation as his brethren resolutely hurtle forward.

I was surprised to have culled any interior shots among 2016’s favorites, and more surprised still to discover this year that I was not alone–uber alone, given my proclivities for rising far too early and wandering far too deep and away–when taking every one of them.

The scalloped lemon and gold glass bowl, rimmed in rust (with the somewhat heavy hand of my beagles’ natural eyeliner), was in an art museum I visited with a friend on his birthday.

It’s a start.

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Birthdays of the Dead

Six years ago today Jim celebrated his last birthday with us.

Love in the Spaces

Iceland 1430

Earth-smoke and rue. Ashy gusts burst and thin and billow again, like those trick candles that can’t be blown out.

Today is Jim’s birthday.  Our birthdays, in different years, fell only ten days apart, both feeding into holidays our family now celebrates more in miniature.

We now live in a small house on a postage-stamp lot. My vehicle has shrunk considerably, the mighty mom van traded out for better gas mileage, fewer seats, and barely enough space to hoist a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. Even the beagle has downsized.

The Lilliputian scaling is apt for a surviving spouse of my fairly petite dimensions.

Jim was more than a foot taller than I. His mark on the world remains large.

I just had follow-up x-rays at the hospital where Jim worked and was a patient. The orthopedist was checking on the status of healing bones (a story for another time, having…

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