“Daybreak, 3/21/21”

Posted on Apr, Thu, 2021 in Landscapes, Musings from Still Point

Fog was descending along the banks of Schweitzer marsh as gilded shocks of grass struggled to hold the early morning light.  Shortly before daybreak, night air had collided with warmer open waters creating pockets of fog that shrouded the thickets of black willow and shoreline sedge. And beyond the rushes and silt banks, century-old pin oaks, the elite denizens of these wetlands, still stand, sharing ground with their scions, adding dimension and solitude to the landscape and bringing to mind a quote by Thomas Mann:

“Solitude gives birth to the original in us, to beauty unfamiliar and perilous – to poetry. But also, it gives birth to the opposite: to the perverse, the illicit, the absurd.”

The second half of Mann’s proposition seemed particularly prescient as spring, 2021 had arrived gently in northeast Ohio with temperatures in the 50’s and 60’s. Nothing in this early spring image could suggest the unseasonable, unfathomable year of death that preceded. Reflecting on nature’s sublime beauty as it aligned with the equinox that day, my thoughts turned to news that Coronavirus deaths had exceeded 557,000.

How can we square in our minds a physical reality that holds at opposite extremes such profound beauty and tragic loss? With varying success, poets and other artists have plumbed this contradiction. And, in a perverse twist of irony, Joseph Stalin perhaps understood it best when he remarked, “A single death is a tragedy, a thousand deaths a statistic.”

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“Bracing, First Snow”

Posted on Dec, Sun, 2020 in Landscapes, Musings from Still Point

On the east bank, perched on a shelf of shale and siltstone 15 feet above the Chagrin River and less than a half mile south of the Gates Mills bridge, a trio of American Sycamores flanked left by young beech, right by a small hoary oak, brace for the first storm of the season. Yesterday my own mood, no doubt informed by radio reports, had me observing the landscape through a lens of apprehension. Quite conceivably the anxiety was also being shared beneath the forest floor, through messages exchanged between trees in a neural and biological network as beautiful and complex as that which grows above. Within that network of roots and ribosomes, early warnings manifest for changes in weather, disease and nutrients; challenges trees address through shared resources and a sense of community.

Ghostly, like bleached bones, the great white sycamores of the Chagrin Valley stand, erect, dendritic fingers reaching toward heaven. I’ve written before of their majesty which is only fully visible in late autumn and winter. Observed during a heavy rain yesterday afternoon, this transient scene was textured, filled with subtleties and wonders along the banks of the river, on the forest floor, above and below, seen and only to be imagined.

Today the landscape is white, dead and two dimensional.

Would that you and I, that we, in this moment of despair and need for community, behave as sycamores.
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“Chagrin Valley, Fairmount and Chagrin River Roads”

Posted on Dec, Sun, 2020 in Landscapes, Musings from Still Point

Reminding us of nature’s caprice, the arrival of a brief cold front 10 days ago, accompanied by the usual suspects (rain and wind gusts), was sufficient to strip much of the color from the slopes above the Chagrin river at the intersection of Fairmount and River Roads. The panorama below is a composite of 12 photographs taken a day later as maples, poplar, exposed oak and sycamore were left bare. Cherry and beech had lost their leaves a week earlier.
Returning this afternoon after yesterday’s (Sunday, November 15) heavy winds, all that remain are the bones of black oaks (right foreground) gesticulating, flanked by ghostly sycamores and random pockets of spruce and white pine. These slopes rise above the river to the east and west to form the Chagrin Valley, creating some of the most spectacularly iconic landscape in the country. And, with their mercurial personality, the trees anchor our affinity for nature as they remind us of its impermanence.
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“September”

Posted on Aug, Sat, 2020 in Gallery Image, Landscapes, Musings from Still Point, Musings from Still Point, Uncategorized

For sale at Still Point Gallery

September

My memory of Septembers in northeast Ohio are of crystal skies and filtered sunlight, a month as temperate as its equinox suggests.  The image here, taken September 8th, 2012 as I walked the center path of Squire Valleevue farm’s eastern meadow depicts a very different month, the portent of a seasonal change.  Stratocumulus clouds on the trailing edge of a cold front swept through that morning auguring an early winter. And in a moment of nature imitating art the landscape bore resemblance to layers in a Rothco painting, a study in color, horizontals and horizons.

This was the rare and restive September day with uncharacteristic temerity, an abruptness and “matter of factness” foreshadowing change, where the transition of seasons is rarely subtle. Even September with its few discordant days, skies prematurely brooding and bracing, still the meadow waiting, a renascent source for life through each season.

And yet most of the month a contrast, a nostalgic time when tall meadow grass makes its final surge then rests weary upon itself. Blue asters tenacious through their last days, Liatris and Ironweed bending reluctantly, folding and fading, their roots and rhizomes anchoring the meadow through time. I’ve often thought September in Cleveland, a mix of memories and wistful, melancholic longings for another place or for past friends and family. The comforting melancholy of  September is reflected in the last stanza of Robert Frost’s poem, “Reluctance”.

“Ah, when to the heart of man
Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
Of a love or a season?”

The barn, its weathered sides and growing clefts reminding us of changes ahead; each season – life’s measure and mystery.

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“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.

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“March Is the Cruelest Month”

Posted on Apr, Mon, 2020 in Landscapes, Musings from Still Point

“Early Blush of Spring”

* This was an earlier Facebook post (Dec., 2019) that I felt warranted inclusion on our blog in the spirit of spring.  My hopes for an early spring in Ohio were premature.  As of today, April 13, there are few signs of flowering abundance save the random tulip trees and the blush of green and tinges of red on the landscape. The following then is a repost of my earlier December description.  Be safe in the days ahead!

“March is the Cruelest Month” (apologies to T.S. Eliot)

After a series of black and white, (“bleak is beautiful”) photographs this past week, I’m hoping to redeem myself with the promise of an early spring as had occurred at the time this photo was taken above the Chagrin river. The spring tease pictured here came in March, 2012 with the transformation of the winter landscape as average daily highs exceeded 60°, an all time record. The month included four days in the 80°’s and seven in the 70°’s and was 18° higher on average than normal.

The crabapple, in its premature cloak of green (foreground), had dropped its blossoms days earlier, and the flowering cherry trees punctuated the landscape as sycamores stood erect and bare among oaks and black willows, an early mantle of color spreading across the latter.

April that year returned to normal with a succession of frosts and temperatures below freezing proving March, not April,
the cruelest month of the year.

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