humor, photography, seasons

Four Months in the Hudson Valley

This post’s little ode takes some poetic license.  I really can do some of my raking in September (when some dingy leaves fall) and defer much of the rest (to after October).  But I cannot entirely avoid October raking.  The leaves blown into the garage would be above my ankles, and any dropped bolts or keys might never be seen again.
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The prophet month has come and gone:
|July foretold the fall.

prophet

Then August did its autumn tease:
|sly hints and that was all.

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September barked “Start raking leaves!”
|I did not hesitate.

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October, just around the bend,
|was when such chores must wait.

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birds, flowers, haiku, humor, photography

Ozzie Had His Head on Straight

David Eppley’s photo of a bald eagle named Ozzie was among the fan favorites in the Weather Channel’s 2016 Photo Contest.  The same excellent photo inspired a haiku that can respond to a CDHK challenge about daffodils.  Really.
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Carpe Diem #1832 Narcissus (Daffodils)

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© David Eppley

Mythornithology
|When we saw himself,
|Narcissus forgot to drink.
|Eagle had more sense.

daffodils-close
Click here to see more images and read interesting facts about flowers in the genus Narcissus (AKA daffodils).

Click here to see more images from the Weather Channel’s 2016 Photo Contest.

haiku, photography

Eight Years and Counting

The year 2020 is not all bad.  Carpe Diem Haiku Kai (which is one of the islands of light in an ocean of darkness) celebrated its eighth anniversary on 2020-10-01.  The fine haiku poet who founded and curates CDHK suggested writing “a nice festive haiku or tanka” for the occasion.
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multi-horiz_800x328_Adj_B-25_C+70_S+50

CDHK Celebrates its 8th anniversary – Carpe Diem 1829
Introduction to a new month.

My response salutes the pluralism and progressivism implicit in CDHK.  We can honor and build upon the past w/o being confined by it.

Old Pond & Beyond
|To sing of all that’s
|true and good and beautiful,
|write haiku poems.

JM_2017-10-27_BKR_800x442

history, photography, politics, serendipity

Machu Pichu Endures

The colors of glistening pineapple and watermelon may distract the eye from something unusual about how these chunks of fruit fell into a bowl.  Let’s remove most of the color from the image and nudge a few other sliders in a photo editor.  Does the accidental arrangement look somewhat familiar?  Ever been to Machu Pichu?
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While I have only been to Machu Pichu vicariously, I have long admired the skills and can-do spirit of Inca stonemasons who made sturdy walls from precisely aligned stones of various shapes.  Precise alignment is a lot harder with stone than with fruit.

The exquisitely crafted walls of Machu Pichu’s now-roofless buildings have endured centuries of frost heaves and neglect.  What high purposes might the buildings have served?  Were any of them schools or hospitals or research institutes?

Panorama of Machu Picchu ruins in Cuzco, Peru

Nope.  The buildings were summer homes for the emperor and courtiers top 0.1% and temples think tanks for the priests pundits who told them that their wealth and privileges were rewards for pleasing the gods creating jobs.  Machu Pichu endures in more ways than one.

Remember in November.

Image Sources for Machu Pichu

mundane miracle, photography, serendipity

Aurora Serendipita

I glanced down one day and saw the Aurora Borealis (aka Northern Lights).  Down?  From aboard the International Space Station, orbiting the Earth?  (I wish.)  No, I just noticed yet another of the mundane miracles that console involuntary homebodies who are alert to them.
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Click on a thumbnail to see the full image in another tab.
Scroll down to see where the images come from.

I glanced up another day and saw the Aurora Borealis.
At my latitude.  Indoors.  By daylight.

Click on a thumbnail to see the full image in another tab.
Scroll down to see where the images come from.

The shallow glass bowl of my birdbath was spending the winter as a decoration in the living room.  While cleaning the room, I happened to set the bowl down under a window where sunlight could reflect from the bowl and then from the ceiling.

The Northern Lights came to mind when I glanced up at the reflections on the ceiling, and I later darkened the gray look of the dimly lit white ceiling to accentuate the effect.

The adjective [serendipitous] was coined long after people stopped speaking Latin routinely.  I guess that either [serendipita] or [serendipitis] would work, if the Vatican ever wants to modify a feminine noun with a Latin version of [serendipitous] in a papal bull.  I went with the one that sounds better and looks less like a spelling error.

humor, language, photography, science

Squirrel at the Center of the Universe

Science says there is no place special, so the center of a coordinate system can be any place convenient for the purposes of the moment.  While the fluidity of centrality would have freaked out Aristotle (and still induces some queasiness), squirrels take it in stride.
 
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Centre ~ Pic and a Word Challenge #247

«Hey, stupid!»
«My empty gut is the center of the universe.»
«Refill the “bird” feeder and I’ll do rest.»

Squirrels also take it in stride when
science says space has no special directions.

Do they chow down or chow up?

(reblog), haiku, photography, politics, tanka

Twilight Tanka

In context, the phrase «world slipping into darkness» in a recent challenge refers to serene twilight in the natural world.  In the political world, the same phrase has an utterly different mood.  What to do?  Write a tanka and dig deeper for ways to fight the political world’s descent into darkness.
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The challenge is reblogged (in effect) below.  I was jolted by the clash between the serenity of the image and the political interpretation of a phrase in the poem.

ebbing-radiance-near-lions-bay-british-columbia_840x520

In the ebbing radiance
Of a world slipping into darkness
The light is most vivid
Capable of magiks
Unknown to daylight

© Patrick Jennings | Radiance ~ Pic and a Word Challenge #243

Radiance and Darkness
|In sure and certain hope
|that light returns tomorrow,
|sky’s radiance fades.
|
|But slipping into darkness
|is not serene for nations.

 

haiku, mundane miracle, philosophy, photography

Mundane Miracle — Curl

What works for one seeker of enlightenment may or may not work for another.  If listening to JS Bach’s Mass in B Minor does not work, consider something quicker and quieter.  Pay really close attention to some of the mundane miracles of everyday life.
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Portal ~ Pic and a Word Challenge #243

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One Way Among Many
|Stiff slick paper slides
|between thumb and blade to form
|a spiral portal.

humor, photography, politics

Lines Plan Their Day

«Let’s twist and ripple across the computer screen
in an exuberant pseudorandom dance
that won’t repeat for centuries.»

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«Maybe tomorrow.  Still sore from yesterday.
I pulled red line duty and
people stepped on me as they crossed.»

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«Hmmm.  Let’s just mark a few straight edges
of flat surfaces in the real world
until U feel better.»
«I’m up for that if we keep the angles simple.»

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I have good news and bad news.

The good news is that I have improved the format of some silliness posted on 2018-05-01, in response to a challenge with the word [line].  The improvements appear above, in response to a new challenge:

Line ~ Pic and a Word Challenge #240

The bad news is that the serious undercurrent in my silliness is even more topical than before.  In so many high places in so many nations, fascists and their enablers have been stampeding across red lines.  One of many recent examples in the USA is Donald Trump’s order that hospitals bypass the CDC and send COVID-19 data only to a database run by Trump loyalists.  With predictable consequences.

After a rueful chuckle about how it feels to be a red line nowadays, we can get back to disinfecting surfaces and other little chores.  Like saving constitutional democracy.

Remember in November.

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birds, haiku, photography

Light Show

The weather is warm and will soon be hot, so I leave my camera behind when I smuggle in a quick walk between chores.  As Murphy’s Law predicts, I see something I want to photograph.  While the scene itself is common enough, the way light caroms off part of it (and then to me) is not.  Oh well, for now I can write a haiku.  Maybe later I can get an image close to what I see?
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Red-winged Blackbird
|Sun shines. Bird mutters.
|Perched on power line, flicks tail.
|Day-Glo epaulets.

Hmmm.  Buy a download of a promising large image (6750×4500 pixels):

© Steve Byland | 123RF Stock Photo

Rotate it.  Crop tightly (down to 635×912).  Boost saturation and visual contrast.  Yes, the result is like the red and gold on black that I saw when the light was just right:

16607712 - male red-winged blackbird (agelaius phoeniceus) perched

Sometimes it takes a good deal of editing to tell the truth.

photography, politics

Freedom for Whom?

«Normally I let people interpret my poems as they will, but here I will be crystal clear on one point.»  So says Patrick Jennings in #236 of his Pic and a Word Challenge series, and I concur.  My poem in response to the challenge has a final couplet that could be misinterpreted, so I too will try to be crystal clear afterward.
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Freedom ~ Pic and a Word Challenge #236

Breonna Taylor and George Floyd did not enjoy freedoms that a white guy like me could easily take for granted.

Freedom?
|Freedom to be left alone,
|not be shot in my own home.
|Freedom from the nagging fear
|that a racist cop is near.
|Freedom to salute the flag,
|or to burn it like a rag?

flag_716x632

The Pledge of Allegiance ends with an aspiration, not a fact.  Maybe some flag burnings are meant to protest America’s failure to provide liberty and justice for all, but they don’t look like that.  They look like flag burnings in Tehran, like hatred of the republic for which it stands.

Tho ardent about civil liberties, I can accept prosecution of flag burners for violating local ordinances against open burning and the air pollution it causes.  Don’t give jerks who alienate potential allies an excuse to fancy themselves as martyrs for freedom of speech.

Close the Camps_2019-07-02_200x304

There are respectful ways to protest with the flag.  Fly it upside down.  Display artwork that incorporates it, such as the moving “Close the Camps” stickers (designed by artist Pablo Stanley) that were distributed by MoveOn.org in 2017.

Above all, remember that the worst defilers of the flag are the bigots and plutocrats who hide behind it, while denying others the freedoms it represents.

Remember in November.

growing old, haiku, photography, tanka

Going Gray?

Some photos need color, some are better in grayscale (aka “black and white”), and many are good either way.  Here are some examples and a tanka that touches on the symbolism of color in general.  Visit the links to see more examples.
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Bare Branches
|Some go to grayscale
|when form is “all” that matters.
|I keep azure skies.
|My world will gray soon enough.
|I keep color and press on.

If somebody chooses to emphasize form and texture in a photo of bare branches by going to grayscale, I am likely to disagree with (but respect) that choice.  So far, I have always wanted to keep color in my own photos, often with minor adjustments in my photo editor.  Here are some examples where grayscale would be goofy:

Click on a thumbnail to see the full image in another tab.

While I have no qualms about really needing color in most of my own photos, there is more to be said about the ways various photographers have used color or grayscale.  Some examples follow.

A somber poem with grayness as a metaphor has been illustrated by a photo of a mostly gray scene.  But it is a color photo, and rightly so.  The subtle color is a reminder that the grayness is there in the scene, not an artifact of how the image is displayed.

Of course, I admire the photographic pioneers whose images were compelling despite then-obligatory grayscale.  Some classic photos are best left in grayscale anyway, and contemporary photographers may choose partial desaturation.  There are even a few photos that benefit from going all the way to true black and white, where every pixel is either pitch black or stark white.  Scroll down from the header image in Choices to see an example.

flowers, history, photography, politics

Memorial Day 2020

Originally a day to remember and honor the fallen in the American Civil War, Memorial Day expanded to include later wars.  Now it should expand beyond the military.  In the COVID-19 pandemic, essential workers risk their lives and sometimes die, defending the rest of us from the disease itself and the societal collapse it could cause.
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lavender-memorial_840x483

In wartime, ignorant and impulsive pols can somehow make horrendous situations even worse.  So it is with the pandemic.  Medical workers (including EMT-s and hospital support staff as well as doctors and nurses) have been sent into battle with inadequate personal protective equipment for themselves and inadequate intensive care facilities for their patients.  Stockpiling such stuff would cost money.  Might even need to raise taxes on those who can work from home, if they need to work at all.  And so on.

It’s so much easier to claim that all is well until all Hell breaks loose, then claim that all will be well when the weather warms up, if we just go back to work and drink a little bleach.

The governors of some states have stepped up.  Learning from each other and from countries (like New Zealand and South Korea) that took the threat seriously, they made tough decisions.  They include a few Republicans (like Hogan in Maryland and DeWine in Ohio) and more Democrats.  It is too early to be sure, but they just might have saved the USA from criminal incompetence in the White House.  Federalism works.

The doctor in Wuhan who first sounded the alarm about COVID-19 was punished for “spreading rumors” and later died of the disease.  Remember him also today, along with our essential civilian workers and those who serve in our military.  Remember that dark money and gerrymandering and vote suppression have sickened American democracy but not yet killed it.

Remember in November.

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language, philosophy, photography, science, seasons

Emergent Leaves and More

Much more.  Careful consideration of emergent things provides some hints about how to live fully and righteously on a little blue planet in a big oblivious universe.  Does that sound too grandiose?  Let’s start small, with some spring leaves and two ways to make adjectives.
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Turning Verbs into Adjectives

While we do it mostly by adding the suffix [-ing] (and maybe tweaking the spelling), we sometimes add [-ent] (or [-ant]) instead.  There is a subtle but important difference when we turn [emerge] into an adjective.  Leaves emerge and then go about the business of growing and photosynthesizing.  It would be a little better to say that my photo shows “emerging leaves” because there is no “and then” for emergent things.  They just are emergent.  What they emerge from is still there.

For example, look again at my photo, not as leaves but as an image.  It emerges from about 700,000 pixels encoded with about 480 KB of data in JPEG format.  That matters if I want to e-mail it to somebody who pays for data flow over a slow connection.  For many other purposes, to fret about the underlying pixels and bytes is a waste of effort.  The shapes and colors and composition are not in the pixels themselves.  They emerge from the way the pixels are arranged and interact with each other and the viewer.

My mild misuse of the [-ent] suffix for emerging leaves is a point of departure for considering bigger issues, not just a bow to the exact wording of Patrick Jennings’ challenge:

Emergent ~ Pic and a Word Challenge #232 – Pix to Words

Poetic Naturalism

Once we start looking for emergent things, we find that the world teems with them.  (Water, ice, and steam all emerge from crowds of the same kind of molecule.)  We find that fretting about “ultimate reality” may well be as pointless as trying to understand my photo by always diving down into those 480 KB and never looking at the emergent image.  While some contexts demand a deep dive, others demand a shallow one.

One of many places with examples and discussion of various emergent phenomena is Sean Carroll’s book The Big Picture, which somehow manages to be a good read (and a mostly easy one) despite dealing with deep stuff in science and philosophy while being fair to other viewpoints.

While nothing in science is nailed down as tightly as 3+2 = 5 in math, there is much evidence that we are in a tiny corner of a vast universe that goes its own way with no overall design or purpose or supernatural intervention.  Can we live fully and righteously in a cosmos that does not give a rat’s ass about beauty or goodness?  In much more detail than I can hope to put into a blog post, Carroll argues that we can.  Emergence is part of the story.

Tho a little queasy about Carroll’s use of the phrase [poetic naturalism] to name his upbeat attitude in the face of knowledge that would depress many people, I can’t think of a better name or a better attitude.

Don’t despair if love and justice seem as fanciful as unicorns when U consider only the underlying dance of atoms and molecules.  Love and justice may be real enough, but emergent.

 

flowers, humor, photography, seasons

Nothing Needed

Long ago, I bought some dwarf tulip bulbs and went thru the forcing rigamarole to get indoor blooming before planting the bulbs.  Nothing but leaves came up.  Feh.  Tossed the bulbs out back.  Guess what happened about a year later.
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Nothing ~ Pic and a Word Challenge #231

Yes, the bulbs survived and put out leaves.  And flower stalks.  Which bloomed.

Year after year, the discarded tulips bloom in spring, while I do nothing for them.  Maybe they are old Yankees like me: compulsively self-reliant.

haiku, photography

She Giggled

I am not just being ornery when I avoid common subjects for haiku or photos.  Seldom do I see a common subject in a context that tickles my muse with the possibility that I might say something not already said many times, often better than I can say it anyway.  On 2020-04-28, my muse giggled at the sight of a popular haiku subject displayed with a cheerful color combination that is special to me.
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IMG_4185_840x495

Seen on Green
|Swaying in light wind,
|branches only seem to weep.
|Pink cherry blossoms.

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