“Remains”

Posted on Jul, Tue, 2020 in Landscapes, Uncategorized


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.

Read More

“July Morning”

Posted on Jul, Sun, 2020 in Uncategorized

“July Morning”

 

“July Morning”

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

Read More

“Bird on a Wire”

Posted on Jun, Tue, 2020 in Uncategorized

Bird on a Wire

Would that we all had a vantage point to ponder the present, peer deeply into the past and wish so earnestly for the future.

Straddling the 45th parallel, “Bird on a Wire” was taken at the intersection of E. Lincoln and County Rt. 641 in southern Leelanau County, Michigan. This particular farm, its owner unknown to me, lies on the latitude exactly halfway between the equator and North Pole. Other than the random (mostly 19th century) farms throughout the peninsula, sand dunes, boreal forests, glacial moraines and even the occasional tamarack bog make up the landscape tracing Lake Michigan’s eastern shoreline. The sand and rich loam that for millennia have sustained the balsam fir, paper birch, blue and black spruce and vast maple and beech forests eventually attracted Europeans to lumber and farm the land. These old farms contribute to the since of timelessness that pervades the peninsula, a geologic anomaly formed 200 million years ago and now the little finger of Michigan’s left hand.

The opening lines of Bruce Catton’s 1972 memoir, “Waiting for the Morning Train” lend to the ageless framework and the lens through which we see the landscape.

“First there was the ice; two miles high, hundreds of miles wide and many centuries deep. It came down from the darkness at the top of the world, and it hung down over the eaves, and our Michigan country lay along the side of the overhang.” Catton reflects on the geologic forces that created his childhood home, imprinting indelibly upon him the history, values and memories of Benzonia, the small farm town bordering Leelanau county. The gentle dunes and fertile soil that produce Leelanau’s great orchards roll undeterred into Benzie county.

The history and my belabored story of the Leelanau peninsula ultimately relate to the image of the bird on the wire, at least with respect to why I thought the photo was relevant. At the time I realized the bird must have had a remarkable view of the land. From its height on the wire Lake Michigan spreads to the horizon on its left (west); the Grand Traverse Bay to its right (east). Looking north towards the camera the village of Northport would be just visible at the tip of the peninsula. And over its shoulder dozens of farms along with the remnants of old growth forests unrolled to the south.

The natural irony of course being the most insignificant element in the image having the greatest perspective.

Read More

“Ascent into Morning”

Posted on May, Fri, 2020 in Uncategorized

Ascent into Morning

 

“ Ascent into Morning” speaks to the Great Blue Heron’s reputation for humility and steadiness, a trait missing in our world presently; the heron standing in sublime contrast to Icarus who, for his tragic hubris, flew into the sun on wings of wax.
 
Taken almost 13 years ago, this is the first occasion I’ve published this image. I thought in this time of grave sadness and anxiety others might benefit from the symbolism of the heron. Metaphorically, to me at least, the wings of the great bird lift us steadily, resolutely into the light.
 
I recall the cool fog of that August morning twilight, standing in the marsh, listening to the landscape awaken. Then came the croaking shriek of a Great Blue Heron and the world around me falling silent. This heron, this old soul here from antiquity, unfurling and primordial as he launched across the water into the new day echoed Longfellow’s evocative first lines from Evangeline, “This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and hemlocks … standing like Druids of eld with voices sad and prophetic … speaks, and in actions disconsolate answers the wail of the forest.”
 
It will be some time before I am able to process this image into language fully but I can say that the experience, alone in the marsh as the world awoke around me, had a profound bearing on my sense of time and place, connecting with the natural world if only for a moment and allowing me to be anywhere and everywhere. This great bird flies from one dimension to another, in its ancient form a vestige of the past flying into light. And so I take its transit from darkness into a rising sun to auger favorably for our future.
Read More

Heron’s Descent

Posted on Apr, Mon, 2020 in Uncategorized

“Heron’s Descent”

“Heron’s Descent”

This image speaks to one of nature’s less well known contradictions; the great blue heron, a sacred totem and spirit animal among Native Americans, a symbol of serenity, self reliance and solitude in western cultures, an extraordinary creature whose virtues and universal reverence belie the absurdity of its behavior during mating season.

I took this photo thirteen years ago after Kate and I spotted a number (aka siege) of herons building nests in a large sycamore in Peninsula, Ohio. Apart from the highly agitated nest-bound females, the males also were contributing to the racket. After dutifully returning to their nests with individual sticks, the males quite naturally expected a little adulation for their efforts, volubly exhorting their mates to express gratitude. Adding to the dissonance, herons apparently aren’t above thievery as birds leaning precariously from their nests would stretch their necks to pilfer material from their neighbor. As transgressors were caught in the act, the tree would erupt with indignant shrieks, enough to disabuse anyone of the notion herons are silent and solitary.

All of this evoked a childhood memory as I recalled my fascination with “The Thurber Carnival”, a book and wedding present my parents kept on their coffee table. James Thurber’s drawings captivated me as a child, particularly one depicting “The Battle Between the Sexes” a satiric drawing of men and women wrestling and battering one another on an outside balcony – a scene that surfaced after languishing in my memory for almost sixty years and one in which substituting herons for humans could be easily imagined.

Read More

“Canto XXXI”

Posted on Apr, Wed, 2020 in Uncategorized

“Canto XXXI”

 

As Monday (3/8/20) dawned rainy and gray with little prospect for improvement, I thought I would try to find an uplifting image to post and remembered a ranunculus I had photographed a few years ago. It reminded my son, Will, of an illustration by Gustave Doré, the great 19th century illustrator of Dante’s “Divine Comedy”. For those who may remember Dante’s masterpiece of the early Renaissance, you also may recall the third and last book (“Paradiso”) as Dante ascends through nine spheres of heaven until he reaches the Empyrean; his allegorical ascent and union with God. Metaphorically he sees the spheres as concentric petals of a white, celestial rose.

Doré’s illustration of Canto 31, for which this photo of the ranunculus is named, depicts the series of spheres (planets encircling the earth and fixed stars) with the Empyrean/Divine residing at the center. This ranunculus seems a humble substitute for Dante’s vision but hopefully it helps to brighten these “rainy days and Mondays” a bit.

Read More

“I Wander Lonely as a Cloud” William Wordsworth

Posted on Apr, Wed, 2020 in Uncategorized

Daffodil Hill, Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland, Ohio

“I Wander Lonely As A Cloud” William Wordsworth

My wish to all who celebrate, a Happy Easter and to those who do not I wish great peace in a difficult time. I leave with you today (April 9, 2020) this image of daffodils blooming on “Daffodil Hill” in Lakeview Cemetery earlier this week. And I reprint one of my favorites, a classic romantic poem of the 19th century by William Wordsword to lift your spirits.

” I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.”
William Wordsworth

Read More

Pin It on Pinterest

Menu
Still Point Gallery & Boutique