This baby squirrel was rather frantically scurrying around at the base of the cliff at sunset tonight. No squirrel mother was in sight. This creature’s tail was trembling while it scurried and then crept in aimless large circles around the rocks we were sitting on. We left, hoping that the mother would appear to fetch her wayward? lost? ill? child.
Eventually, we climbed the stairs up the cliff and when we looked down, the squirrel was making its way back to the foliage at the base of the cliff.
When I was at the tide pools some months ago, one of the volunteer guides told me that the holes in rocks like these are bored by the secretions of the small sea animals that make their homes on and in its surfaces. Lots happening on this rock, encrusted with shell-like material, draped with two kinds of seaweed/sea grass, and marked with the crater-like remnants of creatures unknown.
Creatures Unknown. Doesn’t that sound like the title of a horror movie or, perhaps, a nature documentary? As I write, I look up and see a book on my desk with the title of Life Between the Tides. Many of my photos are of “between the tides” evidence.
And maybe we ourselves are just between the tides?
And a great shadow. These conglomerates continue to amuse and amaze. Nature makes great collages. Kelp growing on rock, clinging to rock, draping over rock.
It took me five minutes to retrieve the word “collage.” This is distressing. I’ve used the word hundreds of times, if not thousands. I’ve taken classes in collage. My art is all about collage! Actually, I am more than distressed. I am sad and afraid. This wasn’t what I was going to write about tonight, but this problem has highjacked my intentions. How can my mind be so fragile? What connections are broken? What paths have been erased? I had to go to an art dictionary to find the word. All I could come up with was “combine.”
We are all so dependent on words. Although I am a visual artist, my interior life is conducted verbally. No, ALL my life is conducted verbally. I am my words. My words are part of my art almost always. I cannot imagine being locked up in a wordless world. Language makes us human.
Kelp king. “Because it’s there.” Did he climb it or just fly to it? Don’t know. He was there when we got there. Unchallenged. Alone. He didn’t stay too long because I couldn’t keep myself from gradually creeping closer to him to try to get just one more better shot. I wonder if there’s a common distance that the birds keep between themselves and us creepers?
Also, it makes me ask how often do we climb for a different view? It’s hard to notice when the views change. It’s hard to notice when our own views change, internal and external. It’s hard to wait for someone else’s views to change.
Waiting, and noticing. That’s what taking pictures is about. I need more waiting and noticing time in my life. I think the waiting and noticing just might make the doing that follows a bit more meaningful. From a hill — or not.
Today it was windy and cold and this beach did not see my footprints.
We spent the day in Little Italy, at an outdoor art fair, among oceans of people and a deluge of art.
Very few people seemed to be buying art. There were perhaps150 artists. I bought an exquisite and sensitive photograph. There was very little art that tempted me. As someone put it, there is much that resembles Thomas Kinkade out there. So little that seems new or authentic or careful, in a full-of-care way. Yet — so many people struggling to sell so much work! How can they stay motivated? How can they continue to spend the time, the money, the space, the materials, the energy, the soul, the grit, the courage, the disappointment that it takes to make art?
It’s supposed to rain tonight and the sky was glowering nearly all day.
Sea. Sky. Shells. Sand. Stones. And the heron returned today. He was standing partway up the cliff, but flew away when I got near enough for a good portrait.
Flew into the sky, just the sky.
Where does the sky start?
Over our heads? Above the trees? We fly kites in the sky. Skyscrapers scrape the sky. Airplanes fly in the sky. Butterflies fly in the sky, I think. And bees. Parachuters are in the sky until they touch the ground. But my knees aren’t in the sky, are they? Nor my head, really?
So where does the sky start?
Can one “touch” the sky? Birds fly in the sky. Smoke rises into the sky. When I jump, do I jump into the sky?
Where does the sky start?
Just tell me that, if you can. There are so many things you can’t tell me. Just tell me that.
I’ve talked about the cliffs — here they are. Or, at least, one portion of them. They are really sand, not rock, and vulnerable. They shouldn’t be climbed, and kids do it all the time. Dangerous. Soft and hard. Forbidding? Not enough, apparently.
Here they look monumental, and remind me of abstracted versions of the terra cotta warriors of Xi’an.
No sign of yesterday’s hawk. The trees at the base of the cliff were empty. Empty of hawk, anyway.
The crows kept zipping toward it. It eventually moved to another tree further along the cliffs, then disappeared. Several people stopped to watch but none of us wanted to disturb it, so we didn’t get any closer. This is a crop of my camera phone photo — we were perhaps 100 feet away.
It seemed a huge bird, and rather startlingly white, especially compared to the gleaming black crows. They were much smaller and yet seemingly fearless in their aggression. Sigh. Territorial instincts abound.
This is in huge (as it were) contrast to the nest of hummingbirds in the tree that overhangs the air conditioning unit in our small yard. There appear to be two chicks and a very protective and vocal mother. She had a snit-fit, righteously so, when we turned on the air conditioner, which shook her tree considerably. I guess we are going to try to do without A/C until the chicks fly the nest. She was also very unhappy when I swept the patio below her darling 2″ cup-shaped nest.
Hawks, crows, gulls, godwits, pelicans, mourning doves, and hummingbirds. Heard/saw them all today!
I had missed being at the beach. Being out of town meant walking in the suburbs. No water, no roar, no sky reaching out to greet me. No briny scents, no wind, no foaming fuming waves. No rocks, no sand, no folded cliffs. No skitterers or stranded sea lions. A few stray ducks, morose over their unfilled artificial pond in the park. Several rose gardens, lovely indeed, but they can’t really compete — not for my affections, anyway.
That sky seems like the curtain, the water is the stage floor, and I am an appreciative audience. Break a leg!
We heard chirping from the cliffside, and it might have been two geckos talking.
It would have been my parents’ 68th anniversary today.
It is the first night of Passover. It is my Hebrew birthday.
Only a little solace offered by the ocean. I feel steeped in sadness again. I am going to visit my sister tomorrow. She is facing some new challenges. We will cry together — and probably laugh a lot too. That will help.
Well, I made that up. But it sounds ok, doesn’t it? These guys are often out on the cliffs and this is one of a pair that has a burrow right near the stairway. They seem to embody the very definition of “busy.” Neither heron nor sea lion was present during our 2.5 mile walk today, so squirrellus is our next critter to be featured.
We went to friends’ house for dinner for the first time. They have cats and a grand piano and a hammock on the patio and fed us margaritas and appetizers and homemade Hungarian noodles and chicken in a marvelous sauce and wine and palascinta for dessert. We rolled away full of good conversation and good food. I had a friend over for lunch yesterday and we are having brunch tomorrow with two of our downtown friends. So my extrovert social requirements are being satisfied nicely. Do squirrels socialize?
The godwit doesn’t seem to know or care. Mr. Pinniped was too far away for us to tell for sure that he’s a sea lion rather than a seal, but I think the former is more likely. I was in such a hurry to take the photo that I didn’t even realize the godwit was there. Surprise!
Unfortunately, as we got closer, the sea lion turned tail, as it were, and swam out to sea/see. He paralleled the beach for a while and then we lost him in a big wave. Where his family was we don’t know.
It was much sunnier and warmer this afternoon, which meant more people on the beach. A few others were treated to the sight of Mr. P. After the appearance of Harold yesterday, I guess I wasn’t all that surprised to see Mr. P. today.
And I keep thinking of “godwits” as “godwinks.” Wouldn’t that be a cute name? Like Spizzwinks (?) at Yale. Not that “godwit” isn’t a bit curious…
Just at the beginning of our beach time, a pleasant surprise: Mr. Harold Heron, in all his graceful gawkiness, lurching cautiously neck first across the sand, keeping toward the cliffs and away from us gawking walkers.
Why does this bird speak of purity? Is it the contrast of stark white unruffled feathers and the black long legs? Is it the arch of the neck, seeming impossibly long? (Is he related to giraffes somehow?) Is it the slant of the body, the lovely diagonal line of the back? I don’t think it’s merely “whiteness” — at least, I hope it isn’t — it feels more connected to sleekness of form than simple color. And the S-curve of the neck accentuates that attention to line. Mr. Heron, you embody a lesson in calligraphy.
These tiny gems delight me. They seem like teeth, like little morsels of candy, like jewelry, like calcified butterflies, like — what do you think they’re like?
Each part is about half an inch long or less. The shine lets them leap to one’s eyes when scanning the sand. There are stones and pebbles of all those sizes and colors, there are big black mussel shells and orange peachy brown scallop shells and unknown many-marked shells and various fragments of shells and bits of kelp — and yet these minuscule treasures demand attention. They got mine.
Literally. The sand fell, the cliff fell, the earth fell away, and there was this tree on the edge of the beach, torn by its roots, out from the earth, where only recently it had been so secure. Nature does this to a tree; we humans do it to each other.
Hope has to spring eternal or how would we go on? This uprooted tree can still share its beauty, even in its death and decay. My people have lost their books and their houses and their bodies to tearing away, tearing away born of fear, of hubris, of hunger, of power-mongering, of ignorance, of hatred, of insecurity; and most of all, of forgetting. Forgetting who we are. Forgetting how we are.
It feels so very not-our-beach. And I hardly ever take photos with people in them, unless I want to specifically do a portrait. Not for this blog, anyway. But there we were, towards the center of town, on a very different beach, with people everywhere. So that’s the ocean, too.
Earlier today we actually sat out on our beach, in beach chairs, with a picnic. My cousin was visiting. We didn’t take a walk. We sat and chatted and sunned and snacked and had lunch and “got a bit of color.” “Go outside and get a bit of color!” my mom would say. Nowadays it’s not such a great idea to get a bit of color, and we did use sunscreen eventually. Still, it felt decadent and self-indulgent and wonderful.
It’s supposed to be warmer this coming week. So I will wear sandals to the beach and perhaps walk barefooted. And wear a hat and sunscreen so as to minimize that “bit of color.” What a shame.
An hour and a half walking on the beach. I wonder, now, each day, whether I’ll find something new to photograph. And here is this poor perfect fish, beached. It appears intact, thus somewhat frightening. What happened to it? How did it end up here? Does this happen often? (First time I’ve seen it, but that’s not indicative of much.)
What kind of fish is it? Is it a juvenile? Did it stray too far from its school? Was it sick or injured? Did it struggle? Was it dead by the time the tides took it?
I am astounded that I have all these questions about a little fish.
Little fish, little fish, what can you tell me about life?
Isn’t it lovely? Isn’t it amazing? Isn’t it wonderful? Isn’t most everything?
Only wish that it were so.
There was an artist — female, older, but that’s all I remember — who was asked if she kept up with the news and current events. She said she couldn’t, mustn’t — if she did, even to read a newspaper, it would paralyze her. Paralyze her! Yes.
I feel that way, often, trapped — as if I’d create more freely, purely, were I not distracted and distressed by the state of the world. For others, the world and its problems are spurs to action if not directly or indirectly the subject of their work. Mostly when I’ve tried to make a political idea the subject of my work, it feels (and looks)trite and weak. How could I possibly have something new to say about, say, racism or tyranny or corruption? Hasn’t it all been said, and ignored? How many of us can generate a Guernica — on any level?
I just hope my work does say something about a moment of the human condition, the way I experience it, the way the muse moves me (hand, head, heart) to express it. A big hope.
I’m not often at the beach in the morning, and it had just finished raining, so these colors seemed exceptional to me. The sea is deep green compared to the pure middle blue of the sky! There was more surf than usual, too, but no one out there — yet. Now the daily surfers seem to have the company of kids frolicking; it’s spring break for weeks, I guess. Or April begins “the season?” We’ll find out as we go through more of the calendar year.
Noticed today that the sand seems to come and go, covering and uncovering the stones on the upper beach. It’s especially evident by the stairs; sometimes it’s a huge step down from the last stair to the sand/beach, and other times there’s very little gap. So it appears that an earlier question has been answered: no one has to do anything after storms seem to ravage the beach and leave mounds of pebbles, stones, rocks, boulders. The tides take care of it, moving sand around from place to place. In some areas, there are gentle hills of sand and even low places where the water pools. Seeing the beach on a daily basis demonstrates slow, gradual changes.
Slow, gradual changes, punctuated by storms. That’s how nature works. Is it how we work?
So there were these critters on this huge log of driftwood. Snails or barnacles or something unknown to me. Looked like fairy dust sprinkles. And this photo has the ambiguity and texture and mystery that I love; it called to me! I’ll have to check out the log tomorrow and see if it changes in any way. Over time. Over storms. Over people.
And I, too, feel like I am changing over time, over storms, over people.