That Particular One

One does a whole painting for one peach and people think just the opposite – that particular peach is but a detail. ~ Pablo Picasso

Bench swallowed by hydrangeas

Bench swallowed by hydrangeas

Blame it on the weather – we seem to have re-entered Pennsylvania’s carboniferous period, the Paleozoic era of tropical rain forests that produced those rich fields of coal, oil, and natural gas that are so currently in contention. Daily rainstorms and high temperatures have spurred green growth so luxuriant that garden paths are now covered in green plants rather than brown mulch and every garden plant is double its normal size. It is a child’s garden for adults, as I look up into the blooms of daylilies and roses above my head and vainly try to temper nature’s enthusiasm for this state of of affairs.

Daylily 'Asterisk'

As a result, I offer here portraits of flowers, bewitching, entrancing,  and totally designed to disguise the unruly and weedy carpet at their feet. Any pretense at horticultural control is gone – oh, this is not a polite or nice summer garden – this is unruliness and passion at its best. So, I have narrowed my view, for purposes of this post, to the particular – the particular flower, the particular point of view, the one instead of the many. If I cannot control the garden with snippers and shovel, I will control its perception with the camera lens and what it can reveal through each flower, each leaf, each drop of rain.

bubblyWPSo many elements conspire to create this cunundrum! This was to be the year of the “total garden” – the wide view of well-defined spaces and elegant combination of elements. “Hah!” said nature and life. “You may wish for control and balance but it is not to be so! Enjoy the wild effusive growth of garden plants and weeds in equal measure and enjoy life to the fullest.” In other words, grow or die.

This week, as I try to complete a large and ambitious piece of music, I am constantly challenged. This note or that, this idea or that. It is the quantuum challenge, of choosing the particular from the field of possibilities. As a composer, I can only trust inner instincts and own my musical choices as I wander through the sound landscape and choose “this, not that.”

Enjoy this little photo gallery of the particular – the blooms that shine above the chaos of riotous growth and change. I now return to my studio to continue pursuing the choice of particular notes.

All photos ©2013 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved

To see more daylilies in my garden, see last year’s post “Beauty for a Day”

Let the Rain Kiss You

Let the rain kiss you. Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops. Let the rain sing you a lullaby. ~ Langston Hughes, American poet

small hostaThe garden glistened this morning with a thousand silver liquid drops of rain, lingering from yesterday’s storms. I’ve been absent of late, preoccupied with finishing a large music piece due in July and with testing and refining my video techniques for the Penn’s Woods project.

This morning, I gave myself a ramble about the garden to capture the sudden wealth of beautiful scenes of raindrops on leaf and bloom.  I have been trying to develop a cinematic approach in capturing video, using selective focus (depth of field) and composing images using a spiral Fibonacci curve. Today, I challenged myself to shoot still photos the same way, using one lens (60 mm macro) and publishing only those photos that needed no cropping and minimal technical prep. Here are a few images of the garden in a magical moment and hopefully a reflection of my current goals in capturing images. Click on any photo to trigger the gallery view. Enjoy!  (All photos ©2013 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved)

Kiss me with rain in your eyelashes,
come on, let us sway together,
under the trees, and to hell with thunder.
~Edwin Morgan, Scottish poet

January Thaw

Winter, an artist’s sketch in charcoal,
so clearly etched against a cloud filled sky . . .
~ from the song “Winter” 

After weeks of “real” winter, complete with snow, ice, and sleet, the rains came yesterday. Thick layers of snow and ice began to crumble and melt in the suddenly warm temperatures, assaulted by alternating pounding rainstorms and soft drizzles.  By evening, a fog had arisen between the melting snow and the warm air and swirled upwards throughout the night.  This morning, mist and fog lay heavily in the woods and along the streams, turning the winter landscape into a mysteriously beautiful January thaw.

I felt as if I were moving through a dream as I walked through the woods. The dark trunks of immense oaks stood like sentinels guarding a secret kingdom in the mist, fading to gray in the distance. Drops of water clung to delicate twigs and buds like sprays of crystals. Snow lingered in pockets, slowly seeping into the garden beds and revealing fresh green growth.

January thaw is an observed but unexplained temperature rise in mid-winter found in mid-latitude North America.” (Wikipedia) The thaw is generally centered around the date of January 25, when a rise of temperatures by 10 degrees Fahrenheit occurs for about a week. The Farmer’s Almanac notes its common designation as “false spring” and compares it to the phenomenon of Indian Summer, the predictable surge of warm weather in autumn. This year, certainly, the thaw is more than 10 degrees warmer than usual; yesterday’s temperature reached 50 F and today will be a balmy 64 F.

The sun is shining now, the mist a memory. I intend to celebrate the January thaw by working in the garden while dreaming of the arrival of “real spring.” Enjoy the morning walk in the woods with me. (Click on any photo to trigger the gallery view)

There are two seasonal diversions that can ease the bite of any winter.  One is the January thaw.  The other is the seed catalogues.
Hal Borland

Anatomy of a thunderstorm

I hear the thunder, long rumbles moving through the hills but no rain – perfect for recording. I dash inside to grab my Zoom recorder, ask my husband to turn down the guitar parts he is practicing in the basement, and put the dog in her “safe” space in the house.

For the first few minutes, I record the thunder – deep booms rather than sharp cracks – but the echoes roll on and on. It is quickly approaching, each boom louder than the last and I’m getting a great signal on the recorder. Suddenly I realize that sound in nature is complex with nothing isolated; although my goal is to record some great thunder sounds without the added sound of rain, I cannot capture it as I had planned – a murmur of cicadas fills the aural space, punctuated by bird song and a hum of distant traffic. I’ve been in the recording studio too long, where every instrument and sound source is isolated and remixed, each thread separated and reassembled. This is a different space altogether, with layers of sound rising and falling underneath the drama of a weather event, a gestalt of sound.

It’s not long before the rain comes – I grab the Zoom and head for the protection of the covered deck but decide to leave the record button on and capture the entire event. At first, the rain is a gentle swishing curtain of sound but it soon builds to a pounding roar slicing through the trees, hammering the roof. A hummingbird still trying to feed gives up and flits into the woods for cover. There is a complex rhythm to it all, an aural story of sounds intertwined in a bigger than life tableau. I wonder how long it has been since I’ve sat outside and really listened to an entire thunderstorm from beginning to end, resisting the urge to refill my coffee cup or check my e-mail. Years, probably. Yet, because I wanted to capture the entire event, I relax and listen and surrender to the moment. I become aware of the progression of the storm as if I were in a concert hall, the quiet passages, the crescendos, the bold dramatic punctuations, and the unexpected layers of birds and insects that remained a part of the aural tapestry.

Finally the rain trickles to a few drops, the cicada buzz rises to the fore again, a car passes by splashing through the puddles, and a crow caws in the distance. Cardinals and woodpeckers chime in and the hummingbird reappears. Water quietly drips from the trees, the woods around me take on a golden glow as the clouds drift away. A soft murmur of thunder leaves a trail of sound in the distance.

Here is an abbreviated version of the thunderstorm that I recorded (reduced from 20 minutes to less than 2 – kudos to Bill Purse, audio editor.)

To see what others are doing with environmental sound as art, visit Ear to the Earth.

All text, photos, and audio ©2011 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved