I took this photograph of a meadow at Squire Valleevue Farm in Hunting Valley, the morning of July 26, exactly nine years ago today. My intent was to convey the sense of impermanence through the soft weight of the morning mist. Hanging like a veil, diffusing light, waiting to be transformed, it held the faint, sweet scent of nostalgia, “saudade” from another culture. Timothy grass added its own dimension, erect like sentries with heads tightly wrapped, were sided by earthbound constellations of Queen Anne’s Lace and the season’s first aster panicles, their blue-violet flowers bending east to a new day.
This abandoned farm in Oceana county sits parallel to Monroe Ave., eight miles due east of Pentwater, a small, mid-nineteenth century village whose summer cottages perch along the dunes overlooking Lake Michigan.
Next to the farm’s original entrance, a gravel road grown over with field grass and sand is still visible as are the imprints of tractor paths crisscrossing the land in faded depressions their vague intersections recordings of generations past. Goldenrod, milkweed, late summer asters, native Joe Pye, and other weeds and desiccated grasses languishing in the solitude of a late Indian summer, native flora advancing quietly, inexorably, consuming the landscape and family history. And strewn about in the foreground, waiting patiently, weathered stumps of cherry bleached by time and lake winds are all that remain of the farm’s orchard. Out of view, behind the camera, flames of scarlet sumac obscure the possible notice or contemplation for the few driving by.
I spent that late afternoon exploring, imagining the property and what remains, its productive, fecund days lost somewhere in the last century, its transient beauty and memories slowly absorbed into the landscape.
What do we make of July, this 7th month, its Zodiac sign, Cancer, in this malignant moment?
July, 2020, arrived silently in northeast Ohio, no summer storm to open the month nor one since, not even this evening 10 days later, only an indistinct rolling rumble, the horizon frenetic with heat lightening and despair, and the distant, sibilant whispers of 132,363 passing on.
This image was photographed at Squire Valleevue Farm about an hour after sunrise, eight years ago tomorrow. Day dawned with the quotidian optimism and clarity that accompany cool July mornings. Fog hung low over the landscape cleaving the hills along the ridges that rise out of the Chagrin valley. In another hour the fog had evaporated, the landscape had flattened and the magic light of morning had disappeared.
In these despairing times I return frequently to this image of a July morning to remind me of the beauty that was and will be. “Look for the miracle” was the great Cleveland School artist, William Sommer’s injunction, something to remember as we cope and conquer in the days ahead.
C.G. Baker, Friday, July 10, 2020