November Monochrome Musings
There is wind where the rose was,
Cold rain where sweet grass was, …
-Walter de la Mare
Now that several consecutive weekend storms have passed, is November anyone’s favourite month?
Hardly! What is there to rave about a month that progressively fades into diminishing light and heat? In most people’s mind, the bridge between fall and winter has us mentally hunkered down in the dark, huddling the furnace with wool socks pulled up to our knees. Folks on the Canadian prairies are content with mere wind and rain but when the white stuff hits the doorstep a touque tops off winter styling in these parts. However, the “in between season” that early winter offers is an important time to pause, reflect and reconnect with nature, ideally, meditatively in a serene and untroubled setting. Often folks abandon these special places over the short days and long nights stretch, thinking that they serve best at the height of summer, ruminating over picnics in daylight that lingers late in the evening, sprinkled with children’s laughter after a park stroll, lolling in heat that does not fade into gradual darkness after 2 PM.
The leaves that haven’t been blown to other prairie provinces have gone monochrome and crunchy, the only sound other than the blustering breeze. No; it is not summer any more but a late fall or winter walk refreshes, invigorates and renews, allows ponder and contemplation. Autumn is but a sweet memory; the malingering, sweet one this fall almost vanquished southern Alberta’s late spring turmoil. We cling to the fading light as the stingy sun holds back more and the days fold into winter, and thank Mother Nature for providing places of respite and reflection before the harrowing days of the pending festival descend upon us.
For more on the goodness of in-between seasons, see:
Living In The Sticks
Some people live downtown, others live on the fringe and a lot of people hang out in between. Those who live outside of these locations, IN THE STICKS, may be chastised for lack of refinement but folks who draw rural breath, smile a wry, knowing smile quietly to themselves.
Living in the sticks does have its benefits but not necessarily the romantic notions that outsiders naively extract – blissful spring sunsets, summer wildflower bouquets, woodsy fall walks, gently falling winter snow. It’s the stuff that affects day-to-day living that has country dwellers smiling. Practical stuff such as: elbow room from the neighbours but close enough to hear the chickens coo and converse as they free range over the boundary; the opportunity to try experimental hobbies without “over the fence” criticism, spoken or not. Maybe, working on your inner farmer, becoming conversant with companion gardening without observational commentary; plants, like humans, get lonely too. If you are the type that doesn’t like to stick things in your ear on a dog walk or you are more apt to turn the dial counter clockwise to reduce the din, then more quietude may be what your country life craves.
Even these joys of living in the sticks can be in a state of flux between seasons. When unwelcome pestilence or unexpected frost snatches those last pea pods, crumples the marigolds, and forces prize sunflowers to cower one final time before falling in defeat, the time has come to seek rural entertainment. Cruising the back roads looking for photographic subjects may suit your artistic fancy, long smothered in the potato patch over the harvest season. Working the scene with a long exposure while the elements play with your patience and digit tips, crafting an otherworld scene out of a scenario passed by a million times. The essence of living in the sticks captured once again.
From Eureka to Defining Moments (with macro photography)
Eureka moments happen often enough but not so for Defining moments.
Sometimes a Eureka moment strikes as events unfold before you. The rapidly changing and dramatic sunset colours have the prepared, latched to a camera, hoping for one outstanding image in the pack. Landscape photographers give themselves the old high five, as one more impressive sunset folds into darkness, handily captured in their boxes. Sometimes you know you hit the H*** S*** button when you check your camera back and zoom in for detail. “That old geezers discerning eye is in focus, hurrah!” More often than not, it is when, cozied up at home, you perceive images on the big screen with all their glory, surrounded by reams of software bells and whistles, clicking and sliding and zooming until one jumps out and you “Eureka” yourself into a frenzy yelping “Bagged a winner!” to Fido (who is definitely not amused).
With macro photography, an image, combining soft, supportive background elements and a complementary mini world, does not usually warrant a heartfelt “Eureka” outburst until this latter stage. You just can’t tell what that bokeh stuff is doing, lurking around in the carefully selected but shifty depth of field. Is it too much, is it too little? At the same time, fear presides over that testy front subject; such a thin slice in focus, suppresses an otherwise joyous eruption. Alas, it just might not be dead sharp in all of the critical areas.
Luckily, on first observation of this image, I discovered in a small world, intriguingly upside down and perfectly in focus, and the background complemented in tone and colour spread, prickly stems contrasting with painterly blends, and thus, a long forgotten Eureka reaction. However, it was a realization that elevated it from the Eureka standard up to a Defining moment. I had just returned from a once in a lifetime Tanzania safari, the type of trip that has you graduating from irrationally shooting everything the first few days to much wiser selective clicking. Shooting elephants and lions and zebras and warthogs daily takes its toll and there is some relief with safari ending and tired trigger fingers taper off into relaxed mode. Ho Hum to the Big Five, give me a new animal to shoot! A snake, maybe… The first morning back home in Canada, jetlagged, I lingered in my garden, fuzzy borage everywhere dripping with droplets recently soaked by an early morning shower, inhaling the freshness that only comes from a recent downpour on the foothills, pondering the goodness a Canadian summer morning offers. I stood surrounded in a haze of sparkling, intriguing water droplets, their magic reinforcing “there is no place like home” yet weary from travel, especially punching the shutter. With hesitation, but newly inspired by what was calling attention and curious as to what could become of it, I grabbed the magic box and sticks and my trusty canine and headed out on my own safari in the backyard.
How does a Eureka moment slide up into a Defining moment? Perhaps, when an image gives you insight into your emotions and subtly teaches you a truth if you are willing to observe. Images await everywhere, you just need to explore with purposeful determination, ever mindful, and, often you don’t have to venture far from the familiar on your own doorstep.