Thursday, August 31, 2017

Summer Shoreline

There's nothing like the month of August for a sense of generosity on the shoreline of Halibut Point. It's a gradual time, warm and slow. Much of man and nature's heavy lifting eases back to a low ebb.

If ever there was a season to haul yourself out of the tides of toil, this is it.

A solitary rock at the edge of the sea makes the perfect place to entertain voices of necessity, self-improvement, and rejuvenation.

Those urgent voices may very well resolve in a leap and a splash.

A leap and a splash lift the winged set to higher panoramic views.

Cormorants, the most enviable of birds, stand, fly, float, and dive along the rim of the sea. They out-swim a fish under water and take to the air.

Well equipped anglers have their jubilant moments.

The convergence of the fishy food chain in August attracts all the hunters that can swim, fly, or drive.

A young bald eagle meets a raucous reception from gulls and crows that normally lord over shoreline delectables.

Seals revel in the abundance.

You have to wonder if the colorful closing of an August day pleases everything with eyes.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Living Waters, Living Stones

For the second time this year Kay and I joined a massive stream of people on Boston Common with concerns about community destiny. But the throng counter-marching to the Free Speech event last Saturday reflected an entirely different mood from the proud buoyancy of the Women's March in January.

We couldn't find the Veterans for Peace contingent right away, intending to be present for the Constitutional principles that were being boisterously debated today. VFP couldn't elevate its white dove flags visibly because public safety officials forbid anyone from carrying sticks that might become weapons in a melee.

In the wake of seven months' tumult with the Trump administration, and the recent disturbance in Charlottesville, the Boston crowd was edgy. They were determined to resist any extremes of intolerance or nationalism proffered in the name of Free Speech. City police cordoned off a wide protective zone around the gazebo where a right-wing rally was expected.

Tens of thousands of counter-protestors pressed in with various voices from shrill to prayerful. The living waters of civic engagement surged over a turbulent streambed of stones. The tiny group sequestered in the crucible became a non-event when their public address failed to materialize. No one knew who exactly those reprehensible elements in the gazebo were, nor what they stood for. But they were a discharge point for the general worry and wrath.

Apparently nice neighbors carried signs with four-letter words denouncing Nazism in America. Many of the imprecations encouraged violent counter-attack. Group chants of "We hate you, we hate you!" and "Shame! Shame! Shame!" were launched across the DMZ toward the gazebo. The mood turned sour.

We found the Veterans for Peace when a phalanx of members, recognizing an opportunity for which they were uniquely qualified, pushed their way by escorting a 'pariah' to safety when the crowd turned on him dangerously. In company with several dark-skinned men in Black Lives Matter shirts we formed a cordon around the offensive individual and moved him to the outer perimeter.

Many people said "Thank you" for the non-violent intercession.  A man in civilian clothes stepped forward to say he had enlisted 22 years ago to protect the founding principles of his country and found it necessary to keep doing it today.

In the streambed of Living Waters were signs of Living Stones, timeless reminders of humanity and good order. The congregation bubbled around them.

Part of that good order came from sensible planning by the City Administration. When they determined that the event had achieved its limit of civic benefit they directed the Riot Squad to extract the Free Speech contingent from the agitated crowd.

As a demonstration of hope, anger, and resolve the gathering was a success. As a venting of crude frustration onto segments of the political body cast as evil, it was a painful failure. It reeked of 'superiority' if not 'supremacy.' Frenzy swirled here and there to pummel an indistinct enemy. Parts of my tribe wrestled with tension, fascination, and barbarism. Perhaps we all did.

I had to check in with uncomfortable feelings. Was I open to looking past the discordant drums and costumes, to listening through clamor for universal dreams? Was I caught up in the forehand embrace of creation or the backhand swat of reaction?

I've returned daily to the easy rhythms of Halibut Point, to open spaces and the sea, where green darner dragonflies are now massing for migration. On Monday a shirtless, shoeless fellow lent me sunglasses to enjoy the eclipse.

Water and stone make up the character of the place beneath a vast sky. It's my practice field for composition, a quiet membrane to the rhythm of encounters with Living Waters and Living Stones. I breathe and write.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Cormorants in the Quarry

Of the two species in our area, the Double-crested Cormorant is the primary summer resident and the one more likely to be seen at any time on fresh water. The pair of feather tufts occasionally raised atop its head account for its common name. All the photographs below show Double-crested Cormorants. The lighter colored ones are juveniles.

Heading back to sea

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Making Waves

Light, the solar workhorse, transmits energy from the sun that makes things happen on earth. Light makes waves, a result of wind passing over water surfaces. The wind is solar powered.

Breaking swells, Halibut Point
As long as the sun shines and the earth turns there will be wind, globally speaking, because air temperatures vary from day to night and our atmosphere warms/cools at different latitudes, elevations and planetary surfaces. These variations lead to imbalances in atmospheric pressure. The air moves responsively to equalize the pressure, creating wind. The friction of air movement over water, whether puddles or oceans, causes ripples that can be amplified into waves.
Great Black-backed Gull and Great Cormorant
Water responds to the energy imparted to it. It becomes a fluid energy vehicle, an energy transportation system. Wind waves are a prominent part of that system. When the waves encounter land their energy transforms the water dramatically into surf.
Herring Gull
The sudden reconfiguration of waves into surf creates challenges, opportunities, and entertainment for coastal dwellers. The forces involved can be tremendous and relentless. Adaptive strategies are usually more effective than resistance.
Common Eiders feeding within the surf zone
The flow of air causes disturbances to the water surface that may initially appear random. Steady winds blowing over a long enough distance will merge the waves and cause crests to form into what is called a sea, aligned rhythmically in the direction of the wind. Stormy conditions can make the pattern locally chaotic.
The wind energy imparted to waves results in an orbital motion to a column of water. The height of the water column is equal to half the length of the wave, that is, half the distance between wave crests. The waves carry that energy toward the horizon but the water itself scarcely moves forward, revolving essentially in one place while the energy passes on, often very long distances.
Swells breaking after traversing an untroubled sea
The waves resulting from distant storms may become organized into swells through assimilation as faster waves overtake slower ones and larger waves superimpose themselves on smaller ones. Such wave trains can travel thousands of miles before they reach shore. In the open ocean they lie low and wide without creating much resistance or disruption. Nevertheless they are powerfully endowed with energy.
Swells rolling in on Halibut point
Swells begin to rise when the bottom of their water column encounters solid land. Even if their direction of travel is almost parallel to the shore rather than towards it, they pivot shoreward when the drag on their shoreward end effects a rotation on heading of the rest of the wave. As it approaches shallower water the wave is forced vertically upward. The bottom of the water column slows down as it drags over the submerged obstacle. Its upper portion surges forward until it peaks and collapses. A fortuitous breeze blowing out from the land into the face of a breaking wave may sustain it somewhat in what surfers call a "pause-hold" effect. This offshore wind puts a rooster tail of spray aloft as a complementary flourish to the crashing froth.
February dawn
The best time to appreciate the effect of wind and waves is to be standing on firm dry land when a storm passes far out to sea.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Light at Play

Sometimes light makes an ordinary scene extraordinary. Sometimes it enters the picture purely as itself, an ace, joker, or wildcard.

Setaria pumila, yellow foxtail grass
Bee on goldenrod
Light begins 'white' at the sun. It colors at every visible encounter and reports to our eyes as reflections, refractions, absorptions. It defines the translucence of a bee's wings.

Bee on thistle
Light bouncing through complex structures on the back of this bee suits itself as an iridescent metallic sheen. It takes on fluorescent color from certain pigments that convert ultra-violet into visible light to amplify a spectral effect, as with the purple thistle.

Ruddy Turnstone
Light is a portal to beauty.

Mother mallard and  her ducklings
Scintillations, or glare, overpower color into bright whiteness.

Gull feathers afloat
Light is a trickster and an instrument of precision. At any moment it is unbiased and complete, singular and infinite.

Quarry wall, morning
When light visits it brings its acquired elements. Its particular qualities change our perceptions. Familiar, objective things become subjective in the play of light.