In the slant light of morning, this camp is nearly inviting, barring the scent of smoldering "ciggie" butts and the frantic hooting of the extended magpie family above my tent.
In Travels with Charley , Steinbeck says, "External reality has a way of being not so external after all." We perceive the world often as a macrocosm of our own experience. When we are sullen, a grey sky is sunken and drab, vapid and oppressive. In better spirits, the same sky may be mysterious and coy or insulatory and snug.
I am in Byron Bay, which I can best describe as vagrant hippie hobo meets brawny choch surfer meets skittles gone wild. A lot of rainbow kitsch, a lot of haggard dusty-bearded buskers, and a lot of dudes glued to their surf boards. They almost resemble herds of centaurs, marching with their wetsuits peeled down the waist--the nude top half of a long-haired man with gloved legs and a longboard extended horizontally behind. Put a bunch together and you'd think you were lost in Lewis' wardrobe.
Vibrant colors abound. On people, cars, buildings. Something in the air exudes rainbows, I swear. It's tough to say who wears more ink--the hoards of tattooed layabouts or the graffitied hulls of concrete buildings and automobile panels. The only surface not slathered in paint is beaches. In the early morning, they are sparsely peopled and smooth, not yet pocked by bum hewn footprints.
Today, I snapped this photo just after sunrise. The spit of land downhill from the lighthouse is the most easterly point in mainland Australia. The air was beautifully clear, the clouds crisp, and the sky inviting. If the way I saw the coast this morning is any reflection of how I am feeling, then I think it can be taken as a good sign.
20 July 2009
I see the comings and the goings...
the trays and platters brought in
people growing, people shrinking
excitement for the first time
laughter at the young, naïve
today there are leaves
tomorrow there are none
the night sees them red
by dawn they are done.
there are so many
comings and goings
what does it mean to have stake?
a big bite.
what does it mean to taste them all?
a layer of dust
is all we are.
flipping through an old notebook in search of a song name, I came across this old rambling. maybe you could call it a poem. I leave tomorrow. The only thing that makes me a little sad about this year is missing Autumn.
I took this photo last year at my home in Sharpsburg, Georgia.
15 July 2009
The sky as seen from the fire tower one evening a couple nights ago. In the tower the world seems to slow down. You hear sounds from animals whose names you can only pathetically attempt to guess. Heavy footsteps, scampering, rustling, hooting, croaking, chirping. Even the wasps that have papered homes in the box at the top of the tower make a strange hum I hadn't noticed before.
One of the most astonishing things about seeing the plateau from there in the summertime is the immensity of the space covered by trees. Trees of all shades of green and endless shapes as far as the eye can see, until the Tennessee River beyond South Pittsburg and until the plateau drops off in the northwest. (Here is a good example.) We live in a beautiful place. The whole world is not so lucky.
13 July 2009
Sometimes, in a hill town like Orveito or Assisi, one can believe for whole moments in the possibility of a life with wings. Here, in this city of the river valley, stolid and beautiful as it is, no creature but a bird could ever lift up of its own accord, circle once the bell tower of the Badia Fiorentina, where Dante used to look longingly at Beatrice during Mass, and fly away. Nonetheless, however much or little it matters, I am writing this in a small notebook covered with tentative brown wings, touched only slightly by a single feather of blue here and there, every one of them laid down by the hands of the printer Giulio Giannini. It is now late afternoon in Florence, and my head is full of wings.
"In the City without Wings"
photo of Freiburg, Germany
12 July 2009
One of my guide books to clouds lists 53 different cloud classifications. On each page, a careful paragraph describes the subtle distinctions between types, explaining how to identify the exact moment when one cloud evolves into another. At some point the entire body of water droplets crosses an imaginary line to be called something else. To say that clouds are ephemeral is simply a temporally broader observation.
If the whole idea of classifying transient bodies seems nearly pointless to you, you're not the first to think so. The sorites paradox sums it up nicely. Darwin recognized this problem with species concepts, of which there are now at least a couple dozen floating around. Systematics is simply a recognition that there is some salient cluster of characteristics that allows us to make a little more sense of what we see, from clouds to barnacles.
"I look at the term species", Darwin wrote, "as one arbitrarily given for the sake of convenience to a set of individuals closely resembling each other." Which is just about all we can agree upon. But at least we agree on that.
10 July 2009
I took this string of photos atop a fire tower in Tennessee as the sun was setting. The clouds seemed to be directionless, some retreating to the west, while others fled eastwards above them.
My thoughts from the evening went something like this:
My legs dangle freely a half-story beneath my camera clicking away at 5 second intervals and catching un « dageurréotype » du coucher du soleil, ou plutôt la lumière qui se déplace devant le coucher du soleil.
La nuit approche. La lune est pleine. Demain, mon deuxième vol de nuit vers un aéroport contrôlé. Je sais. Et je ne sais rien. Les bottes de mon ami faire un craquement à chaque fois qu'il se déplace sur l'ancien escalier de chêne juste à côté de mon oreille.
La nuit descend rapidement et, peu à peu les grillons me calmer vers pensées de mes étés d'enfance sur un île-barrière, comme les rêves étoilés de Saint-Exupéry qui fut transformé dans le désert et a accouché du petit prince. J'écris.
Il y a quelque chose de sérénité dans le changement lent de lumière. Il est peut-être la raison que je me languis des hauts latitudes où la lumière reste suspendue pendant des jours du crépuscule et chaque saison a sa propre gamme de couleurs délicates.
Mon ami monte, et moi, je reste assise sur l'escalier tandis que les grillons et les grenouilles chantent pour le changement de la lumière. La nuit approche.