“Kate”

Posted on Jan, Sun, 2021 in Black & White, Musings from Still Point

“Kate”  A Walk into a New Year

Fourteen years ago today I took a photograph of my wife, Kate, as she walked the same path that had led to the title of my first book, “The Way Home”. Oddly, other than birthdays and holiday snap-shots, it was the first time I included a person in a photograph I published.

Ten or fifteen paces ahead, and unaware I was taking her picture, she maintained her usual brisk, deliberate gait, always seeming to know her heading, if not particularly concerned about the final destination. Earlier in the day gray clouds had descended into the dull opacity of the season, all but absorbing the landscape’s color. Worn black from deer passing, an earthy redolence of the forest floor was suspended in the air along the path as it meandered through the tall, close-quartered beech and white pines competing for sunlight. By late afternoon and the end of our walk the metaphoric veil of gray was lifting, light finding its way between the trees, revealing a clearing ahead.

From time to time I look at this photograph and wonder how an elemental image holds the capacity to evoke such emotion in me, or to communicate qualities of an individual or the relevance of a place it depicts. Moreover, it calls into question how much of our own experience and existence can be ascribed to or reflected in our art – a fundamental question for any work I suppose. An artist’s perception, of course, relies as much upon personal experience as on his/her powers of observation and attempts at objectivity.

What others may take, if anything, from this particular image is difficult to know. From the general lack of detail, a random viewer might see only the banal, an androgynous figure, an indistinct path and a locale sufficiently lacking in context to place. For me, however, the photograph captures Kate’s authenticity, humility, and reverence for the natural world, the same qualities I’ve valued in nature and that have illuminated my way home through difficult times. Presumptuous to think others might have similar notions about this photograph but one must ask, even rhetorically; is there not some universality in an image or any work of art, symbols perhaps that transcend the experience of the artist or viewer, that, in the end, confer meaning?

I send this image on as an expression of gratitude and love for Kate and as a symbol of mystery and goodwill to each of you as we embark on the new year.

Geoff
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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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“Morning Meadow”

Posted on Jul, Mon, 2020 in Musings from Still Point, Uncategorized

“Morning Meadow”

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.

Beyond the meadow’s perimeter the “ee-oh-lay” of the wood thrush mixed with the irrepressible bubbling joy of bobolinks, the last wave to migrate still nesting beneath the grasses. And redwing blackbirds, songs at once bright and disconsolate chiming insistently. Bird songs of every season exalting the sacred.
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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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