“Kate” A Walk into a New Year
“Kate” A Walk into a New Year
“Toward Heaven Still”
In a couple of his poems (“After Apple Picking and “Birches”), Robert Frost summoned both imagery and metaphor through the phrase, “toward heaven” and “toward heaven still.” I’ve often thought this towering pin oak, anchored in less than three feet of water at the north end of Schweitzer marsh, was “pointed toward heaven still”; ascending from its base, reaching into the firmament.
Exploring the marsh, beech groves and hawthorn gauntlets as young boys of ten or eleven, my friends and I could always spot this tree above the others and orient ourselves. The pin oaks pictured here were already dead and ghostly by the mid 50’s, almost seventy years ago, yet the grove “still” stands. More than I can say for myself at times.
My preoccupation with geese traces to childhood and the scarcity of what now has become abundant. This is the second in a series. Note, the gander trails the female always protecting his territory.
What works (I think) about this image is the context (marsh sedge in the foreground) and the center focused composition.
“Outbuilding, Leelanau County, Michigan”
After printing this image I tried to imagine whether the scene would have appealed to three of my favorite artists, Edward Hopper, Grant Wood and Andrew Wyeth, each whose work may be considered an example of modern American realism. I think the almost surreal landscape would have attracted Wyeth; the nostalgic throwback, Wood; and the solitude of the scene, (especially the isolation of the towering outbuilding), Hopper. I mention these artists because, for many years I’ve been drawn to their work and suspect it has influenced the way I see landscapes and architecture.
This outbuilding resides on the property of Carsten Burfiend, the first settler of Leelanau County. Mr. Burfiend built two farms in the late 19th century just north of Glen Arbor. The farm is closed though restored and sits between a spine of dunes to the east and Lake Michigan less than a mile west.
Not a sound at the marsh today (January 1st, 2017). Hundreds of acres covered with a thin sheet of ice, perforated only by tiny islands of marsh grass and dead pin oaks. The few remaining geese and ducks have moved to the open water of lakes and rivers. Not a sound, not even “the sweep of easy wind …”.
Groves of dead oak still stand in silence after more than fifty years, gray with age but unaffected otherwise. Today’s blue sky and early afternoon light accentuated the bleached wood and made for a dramatic black and white image close to shore.
The blanket of snow last year (see “Sentries” https://stillpoint-gallery.com) contrasts with this first landscape of 2017 – ineffable beauty waiting for us in the starkness of the season.
“Solitude gives birth to the original in us – to beauty unfamiliar and perilous … to poetry.” Thomas Mann
Among the blessings conferred by early morning excursions into the marsh has been the opportunity to observe Red-Winged blackbirds as they usher in the day with their first notes. In the morning twilight, almost an hour before sunrise, this blackbird was first to rise from the marsh to greet the morning with its song. Abruptly, the landscape erupted in a cacophony of disparate songs; harmony in its dissonance.
Isolated on a dead pin oak before sunrise and silhouetted, Kirie-like against the eastern sky, its colors were indiscernible. It made more sense to process this photo in black and white without the slightly hued and muddled colors of the predawn sky.
This is a moment I wish for everyone.